Coir-pith is a lignocellulosic waste material consists of Lignin 20-40%, Cellulose 40-50% and Hemicellulose 15-35 %. Coir pith will not degrade by itself and will remain over the soil years together, thus polluting the environment. The quantity of coir waste produced is so enormous, making its disposal difficult because of its high lignocellulose and slow degradation in natural environment. Coir pith can be converted into organic manure using microbial technique making it ideal for gardening and horticulture.
Composting is the natural microbial process of decomposition of organic matter by microorganisms such as Bacteria, Fungi and Actinomycetes. Biocomposting process is a viable means of converting various organic generated from the industry and the agricultural sectors into beneficial products such as biofertilizer and as a soil conditioner. All kinds of organic residues amenable to the enzymatic activity by the microorganism can be converted into compost by providing optimum condition for degradation.
Composting the Coir pith with microorganism itself may reduce the time for lignin degradation; it can be accomplished through aerobic and anaerobic process. Composted pith with reduced C/N ratio and pH of about 6.5, making it ideal soil organic manure. Composting improves the biological properties & physical conditions like porosity and water holding capacity of the soil. It serves as a substrate for the proliferation of native microbial population. Nurients become available to plant roots at a slower rate with compost compared to inorganic fertilizers.therefore the nutrients are less likely to leachout. The composted pith did not contain or carry weeds and undesirable pathogens. Thus providing a rich soil environment for plant and vegetation growth. Coir pith creates the most favourable soil condition at rhizosphere and brings about soil biology improvement. It is an excellent soil conditioner for correcting soil problems. Coir pith compost improves potassium use efficiency of rice was reported.K fertilizer requirement of rice was reduced when fertilizer was mixed with coir pith compos
Exploitation and recycling of naturally available agricultural waste is an important component of sustainable disease management. T. Coir pith supports beneficial microorganism that lower disease incidence by mechanism like competition, antibiosis, parasitism etc. Aspergillus terrus recovered from coir inhibited Mycelial growth of various soil borne pathogens. It is suitable for the mass cultivation of biocontrol agent Trichoderma sp. Exponential multiplication in Coir pith medium could be due to versatile nature of Trichodema for carbon and also due to major and minor nutrient available in coir compost.
Microbial degradation of coir pith is considered to be a safe, effective and environmentally friendly process, mushrooms have good potential for degrading coir pith. The white Rot fungi degrade lignins not only to use them as carbon sources but also to remove a physical barrier against cellulose utilization. These agro waste material can be used for the production of Lignolytic enzyme by microorganism in solid state fermentation (SSF).P.chrysosporium is one of the most widely studied white rot fungi with regards to lignin degrading enzymes. Such as laccase, lignin peroxidase, manganese peroxidase and H2O2. SSF using the coir pith is an attractive process to produce the above fungal enzymes.
Degraded coir pith along with Cyanobacteria can be used to promote plant growth thereby increasing the crop yield and especially soil productivity. They add nutrients to soil, release growth promoting substances, increase soil organic content, improve soil structure & also improves the buffering capacity against fluctuation in pH levels of soil. Cyanobacteria degrade coir pith at ambient conditions and the degraded products consisting cyanobacterial biomass and coir pith by products are served as biofertilizer - Cyanopith and Cyanospray to enhance the plant growth and yield. It is reported that cyanobacterial fertilizer can be useful for the quality and quantity improvement of fattyacid content in oil seeds of groundnut. Considering the commercial opportunities of the coir pith its technical possibilities have to be explored further.
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The author gratefully acknowledge Dr .C.K Peethambaran for his valuable suggestions.