Creating And Using Compost In Organic Farming

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Compost is a critical ingredient for any farmer that allows them to keep their fields healthy. Composting is the process that transforms raw organic residues into a “humus-like” material. Microorganisms break down the organic material and produce nutrient rich soil additives such as mulch, fertilizer, seed starter, and container mix. Mature compost, unlike some industrial versions, is biologically stable, easy to handle, less bulky, and free of unpleasant smells.

The benefits of composting

Composting provides a variety of benefits, many of which naturally aid farms both large and small. Compost improves the soil’s biological, physical, and chemical characteristics and suppresses plant diseases. It also reduces the heavy metal content of the soil, improves water retention, and increases fertility. Additionally, this material increases microbial activity within soil, improves its structure, and increases cation exchange capacity.

Compost provides many more benefits to farms. It can suppress plant diseases such as root rot. The microorganisms bred in the compost are friendly to crops and compete with parasites and pathogens that would otherwise attack your crops. Essentially, compost creates an army of microorganisms between your crops and dangerous blights.

Creating compost

Microorganisms produce compost, so to create good compost, you need to create a healthy environment for the microorganisms to thrive. Microorganisms are sensitive creatures that need the right balance of oxygen, moisture, and feedstock to grow.

The composting process begins as soon as the feedstock is compiled. Microorganisms immediately start breaking down the organic material and this process will continue for several weeks. During the “active” phase, the compost pile will heat up to between 120 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit. At this stage, you can speed up the process by aerating, or turning, the soil two to four times. The aeration process speeds up the microbial activity and hastens the breakdown of organic materials.

Some common composting techniques include windrows, static piles, and in-vessel. Each method has its pros and cons. Static piles must be perforated with pipes to facilitate aeration, windrow piles must be regularly turned, and in-vessel composting methods can be expensive.

Once the organic material is consumed, temperatures drop to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the curing phase begins. The curing phase is when the compost is stockpiled and ready to be used in a few weeks.

The composting process is regulated in all 50 states, so you should consult your local or state authority for additional information. The federal government, through the National Organic Program (NOP), prescribes composting rules, regulations, and guidelines that answer specific questions. For example, they will address the treatment of synthetic substances and animal waste in composting. The NOP also bans certain materials from composting such as sewer sludge and urea. You are encouraged to review your state and applicable NOP rules prior to composting, or hire a company to handle your composting needs.

Understanding quality

The quality of compost is measured by several data points. These include the neutral pH, presence of weeds, source of nitrogen, low soluble salts, source of organic matter, and presence of phytotoxic compounds.

How to use compost

Compost, while a great soil additive, should not be considered a fertilizer. This material is a great booster to plants as it improves biological and physical properties in the soil, but it isn’t a significant source of nutrients. However, compost does increase the fertility and nutrients in fertilizer and thereby prolongs the fertilizer’s useful life.

As you can see, composting provides numerous benefits in improving the efficiency of your farm. Compost protects your crops, increases the shelf life of your fertilizer, and improves the natural biological and chemical processes in your soil.

Contact the experts at Scarab International today to learn more about how high-quality compost turners can benefit your city. You can call us at (806) 883-7621 or Contact Us by email to learn more about our compost turners and our services. We offer new, refurbished, and used compost turners, as well as leasing options.