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Composting

22 Apr 2005

Whilst reading “Articles by Ehrenfried Pfeiffer” volume 2
I noted that by “composting proper”
(a) nitrogen content can be increased
(b) minerals are made available
(c) acidification is avoided
(d) a stable product is obtained
B-D compost out-performs NPK fertilizers in vitamin A & C tests and is above average protein.
 

In the field treatment with compost and 500
1. Soil Structure is changed
2. Acidity of many soils is reduced
3. Within a few years organic matter doubles and moisture is retained
Plants in many ways do not directly feed on minerals.
 

In Macedonian tobacco the desired potassium was best obtained on soils with high magnesium. Goat manure was used though it itself is low in potassium.
 

Buckwheat’s value as a green manure is that it collects calcium. An oak tree in calcium deficient soils collects calcium in higher concentrations than any other plant. Earth worms are attracted and then “all kinds of seedlings will grow there”.
 

Stinging Nettle collects iron which is needed to transform light into chemical energy (Chlorophyll) whilst chlorophyll itself contains magnesium but no iron. In taking up iron Nettle reduces acidity.
 

Many plants which develop starch and protein need soil minerals though they are  not themselves found in the starch and protein. Potatoes, corn and grain need soils rich in potassium(P). The P acts as a bio-catalyst and influences plant tissue processes but is not in itself found in sugars or protein.
 

Young leaves are richer in P so use green manures and fresh cut grass and legumes in the compost.
Phosphate benefits from silicates.
 

Silicates play an important part in cell wall strength and resistance to fungus disease and parasites. Most soils have silicates and can be sprinkled through the compost.
 

“Humus is the basis of all life, even of the mineral exchanges between soil and plants”.
 

“New discoveries show need for proper composting to get quality produce”.
 

Alkaloids and poisons can be absorbed by plants from improperly composted organic substances and
imported mulch of organic additives. Plants themselves then become poisonous.

 

Taken from Pfieffer B-D Gardening and Farming Vol 2, page 117
In between the building up of life and breaking down is a process of fermentation, under the influence of yeast and bacteria supported by enzymes.
 

This middle process is a mediator which arrests the break down into component parts and transforms organic matter into a stable plant food resource - humus.
 

It is in the interest of farmers and gardeners to control these conditions before complete break-down. Humus is not so much a definite chemical formula but rather a state of existence of transformed organic matter in connection with soil, soil life, moisture and air.
 

Certain bacteria live only on decay and putrefaction; they only break down. All bacteria forming nitrites and ammonia are in this class. They work in wet anaerobic conditions and disperse nitrogen. They are robbers of the soil and compost heap.
 

The aerobic bacteria make nitrates which are stable and form part of the humus. Aerobic bacteria are master nitrogen fixers.
 

Another process is the decomposition of starches, sugars and cellulose. Under conditions which give access to air carbon-dioxide is formed. Where there is no access to air – at the bottom of compost heaps in very moist conditions break-down means that the carbon is lost. In such conditions acidity rises and nitrogen producing bacteria do not grow, as they prefer a near neutral medium.
 

To minimize loss of carbon-dioxide a heap should be covered with a layer of earth. Carbon-dioxide is then retained by micro-organisms, bacteria and fungi.
 

Another destroyer of cellulose and starch is overheating. Thermophilic cellulose digesters thrive between 50°C and 60°C. An aerobic bacteria fermentation at these temperatures burns off nitrogen and carbon-dioxide. Again we need to put the breaks on, tread down loose material and keep moist. The temperature should remain below 50°C.
 

A directed balanced fermentation holds humus in a stable state as opposed to decay and putrefaction.
 

Phosphate is held in easily available form under these correct conditions. Carbon-dioxide is almost the universal solvent of original rock particles and in conjunction with micro-life it aids liberation of magnesium, iron, boron, phosphorus, magnesium, aluminum and potassium (hence the importance of inter layering a compost heap with layers of earth, thin enough so that each particle is accessible to the life process).


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