Biocompost is mass of rotted organic matter made up of decomposed plant material. It is used in agriculture and gardening from ancient time to improve soil structure rather than as a fertilizer. It is free of obnoxious odours and commonly contain about 2% nitrogen, 0.5 - 1% phosphorus, and about 2% potassium. Lime, nitrogen fertilizers and manure may be added to speed decomposition. The humification or process of composting is done under in three stages:
1. Mesophilic stage: This is the initial stage of decomposition and lasts for about a week during which sugars and other simple carbohydrates are rapidly metabolized. This is an exothermic process and may cause an increase in temperature by 40°C.
2. Thermophilic stage: This is the second stage and lasts for about two weeks, during which the temperature may rise to about 50 to 75°C. This drastic increase in temperature is accompanied by the decomposition of cellulose and other resistant materials which in turn thoroughly mixed and kept aerated.
3. Curing stage: The temperature decreases during final stage and the material being composted is colonized by mesophillic organisms which often produce plant-growth stimulating compounds. Mesophillic organisms are usually fungal-dominated and useful to restore bacteria dominated soils too. The humification of organic material is characterized by an increase in humus approximately 4 to 12 percent and a decrease in the carbon nitrogen ratio as well.
Types of composting
Aerobic composting: This type of composting is usually done in the air.
Anaerobic composting: This type of composting is done without air.
Vermicomposting: This is most beneficial for composting food waste. It is done with red worms, bacteria, fungi, insects, and other bugs. The earthworm species (composting worms) most often used are Red Wigglers (Eisenia foetida or Eisenia andrei), but European nightcrawlers (Eisenia hortensis) may also be used. Vermicompost has been shown to be richer in many nutrients than compost produced by other composting methods. Unlike other compost, worm castings also contain worm mucus which helps prevent nutrients from washing away with the first watering and holds moisture better than plain soil.
Key factors affecting the composting:
There are certain key environmental factors which affect the speed of composting. These are surface area/particle size, volume, and temperature.
Measures to be taken for composting:
1.To provide good aeration throughout the pile.
2.To avoid excessive packing.
3.To avoid weed seeds, and disease-infested materials.
4.Do not use by-products containing heavy metals and other contaminants.
5.Keep the moisture content up to 50 to 70 %.
6.To provide a coarse mesh screen at the base of the bin.
7.To mix bulking agents such as wood chips and residue
About Author / Additional Info:
Dr. Kirti Rani Sharma,
Assistant Professor (II),
Amity Institute of Biotechnology,
Amity University, sec-125, Gautam Buddha Nagar, Noida-201303 (UP), India.
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