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Compost is natural fertiliser and a source of nutrients for plants. It is a bulky source of organic matter that supplies nutrients in small quantities and organic matter in large quantities. It is prepared via the decomposition of animal excreta and plant waste.
Types of Compost
Compost types include:
- farmyard manure,
- green manures,
- and vermicompost.
A Comparison of the Different Types of Compost
Long lasting in the soil, nutrient rich
Storage problem, can acidify the soil
Adds organic matter to the soil, improves soil texture, leguminous crops add nitrogen
Not nutrient specific
Rice, maize, sugarcane, cotton, wheat
Economic and environment friendly waste management, low cost
Waste segregation is required
Fruits and vegetables
Improves water retention capacity of soil, enhances germination, plant growth and crop yield
Proper environmental conditions have to be maintained for earthworms to thrive
Farmyard Manure (FYM)
Farmyard manure (FYM) is a decomposed mixture of cattle excreta and urine along with litter and leftover organic matter such as roughage or fodder. These waste materials are collected daily from the cattle shed and stored in a pit for decomposition by the microorganisms. It contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
The Advantages of Manure
- It enriches the soil with nutrients. It replenishes the general deficiency of nutrients in the soil.
- Manure adds organic matter called humus to the soil which restores the soil texture for better retention of water and for aeration of the soil. For example, organic matter present in the manure increases the water holding capacity of the sandy soil and drainage in clayey soil. It also prevents water logging in clay soils.
- The organic matter in the manure provides food for the soil organisms which help in making nutrients available to plants.
Thus, organic manure helps to improve the physical properties of soil, reduces soil erosion, increases the moisture holding capacity of soil and above all these advantages, is a low-cost nutrient carrier. Using biological waste is a way of recycling farm waste. Manure also protects our environment from the harmful effects of synthetic chemicals or fertilisers.
The Disadvantages of Manure
- Manure is bulky with low nutrient content. The nutrients in manure are released slowly and do not keep up with the high and rapid demand for nutrients of improved high-yielding hybrid varieties of crops.
- Being bulky and voluminous, it is inconvenient to handle, store, and transport.
- Moreover, manure is not nutrient-specific and hence, it is not useful when a particular nutrient is required in the soil for a particular crop.
Compost is prepared from farm and town scraps such as vegetable and animal refuse and waste, weeds, crop stubble, clippings, rice hulls, forest litter, etc. Composting is a biological process in which both aerobic and anaerobic microorganisms decompose the organic matter. It takes about 3 to 6 months for the decomposition of organic refuse.
How to prepare compost:
- Dig a hole of suitable size (4 to 5 m long, 1.5 to 1.8 m broad and 1.0 to 1.8 m deep).
- Spread a layer of well-mixed refuse of about 30cm thickness in the hole. This layer is moistened by the slurry of cattle dung or soil and water.
- Spread the second layer of mixed refuse in the hole until the heap rises to a height of 45 to 60 cm above ground level.
- Cover the top of this heap with a thin layer of moist earth.
- After 3 months, take out the partially decomposed biomass and collect it in a conical heap.
- Moistened the heap if necessary and cover it with earth. After one or two months, the compost is ready for use in the field.
The practice of green manuring includes growing, mulching by plowing, and mixing of green crops with soil to improve the physical structure and soil fertility. Green manure may include both leguminous and non-leguminous plants such as Egyptian clover, cluster beans, etc. Such plants are used to add nitrogen, phosphorus, and other organic matter to the soil to improve crop yield.
Green manure crops are grown in the field for about 6 to 8 months and turned into the field at flowering stage. These crops remain buried for about one to two months. Plants should be completely decomposed before sowing the next crop. Generally, the crops which require high nutrient input are raised in the green manured field, such crops are rice, maize, sugarcane, cotton, and wheat.
The degradation of organic waste by earthworms is called vermicomposting. An earthworm is physically an aerator, crusher, and mixer. Chemically, it is a degrader, and biologically, a stimulator of decomposition. This is an appropriate technique for efficient recycling of animal wastes, crop residues, and agro-industrial wastes.
Vermicompost can be prepared from all sorts of organic wastes, agricultural residues, animal manures, dairy and poultry wastes, food industry wastes, municipal solid wastes, and biogas sludge.
The Overall Benefits of Manure
Though manure lacks in plant nutrients, it is rich in organic matter and cheap. It is environment-friendly and does not cause any type of pollution either to the soil or to water. It enriches the soil with humus and improves the overall quality of the soil like soil texture, soil aeration, and water holding capacity.