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Organic Fertilizers Production
Compost is made from organic materials such as grass clippings, leaves, manure or even table scraps added to the compost pile or sometimes used directly as farmyard manure. The biggest advantage of using an organic fertilizer is that the organic matter is less harmful to the environment. While chemical fertilizers can pollute the water table, organic matter breaks down into natural compounds that are recycled from the soil. They dissolve more easily than chemical fertilizers and release their nutrients over a longer period of time. This stable food provides plants with a prolonged application of nutrients during all stages of growth. The results of various research works are summarized in simple language to help farmers in the use of organic fertilizers.
(i) Organic fertilizers reduce the density of soils such as heavy clay, allowing better air circulation around the roots
(ii) Good organic mulch also prevents weeds from getting a foothold.
(iii) Good organic fertilizers promote the activity of earthworms and also promote the growth of beneficial organisms
(iv) Organic fertilizers add basic nutrients that plants need for better growth and development – nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium
(v) Organics also promote stronger plants and better production. They help the environment as they do not contain harsh chemicals that are dangerous to humans and animals.
(vi) Organic fertilizers have a very positive impact on the environment and they provide nutrients necessary for growth and help plants overcome diseases.
3.0 PRINCIPLE OF COMPOSTING
Composting can be defined as a biochemical process by which different and mixed groups of microorganisms break down organic materials into humus. Therefore, optimal conditions must be maintained during composting to maximize microbial activity in the compost production system. All of the following points should be considered when composting:
(i) C:N (carbon to nitrogen) ratio in feedstocks
(ii) moisture content
(vii) microbial activity and
(viii) nutrient supply
4.0 COMPOSTING METHODS
Below are four composting methods that farmers can use for maximum productivity.
(1) Batch method
(2) Pit method
(3) Cage method
(4) Barrel method
4.1 THE PILE METHOD
If you adopt this method;
• accelerates decomposition and allows easy air penetration
• enables easy return of composting materials
• makes it easy to maintain optimal moisture content
• is very popular among those who produce for commercial purposes
• during the process, cover the pile with a suitable covering material such as nylon as shown below
4.2 THE PIT METHOD
If you adopt this method;
• it is very tiring but it is very suitable for dry areas
• is adaptable for small-scale compost production
• has poor aeration and slow decomposition
• there is difficulty in maintaining optimal moisture content during the rains
• there are difficulties in returning compost materials, and
• the cost of making pits is high
4.3 THE CAGE METHOD
If you adopt this method;
• you can collect raw materials to use on a daily basis
• you do not need any systematic arrangement of the collected materials
• you can open the cage for air and rain, although you cover the top of the cage from direct rain
• Breakdown in this method is low and no turning of materials is required
• it is suitable for home gardens and small agricultural plots
4.4 THE BARREL METHOD
If you adopt this method;
• is suitable for home gardens especially in urban areas
• you can collect materials to use on a daily basis
• this method is like the cage method in many respects
• but the barrels are more expensive than the cage.
5.0 STEPS IN THE PRODUCTION OF COMPOST
5.1 Selection of the site for the production of compost
When choosing a place for compost production, make sure:
• The raw materials are ready
• water source is available
• the location should not be near the drinking water source.
5.2 Preparation of a production site
To prepare the site for composting
• Provide shade and ensure proper drainage of the area
• Clear the page
• Remove stones and unwanted materials
• Level the site if possible
5.3 Collection of raw materials
In the collection of raw materials for compost
• Locally available raw materials should be used such as weeds, banana leaves and stem, sowing dust, crop residues and kitchen scraps.
Pile and pit methods
• maintain the maximum height of the layer up to 15 – 30 cm to accelerate the decomposition of raw materials
• Use weeds or tree scraps or fallen leaves or any other suitable raw material as a first layer
• use green leaves or grass as a second layer.
• add water if the raw materials are dry or do not contain enough moisture.
• use banana leaves as the third layer.
• use as 4th layer leaf drop or similar material.
• Use as 5th layer Animal waste.
• use the chopped banana trunk pieces as the 6th layer.
• use different available leaves as the 7th layer.
• make the pit or pile with different raw materials to a reasonable height.
• add sufficient water and cover the pile or pit with a covering material.
• in the pile method always keep a space between the lid and the soil for ventilation.
• Open the lid and check the moisture content every 4-5 days by inserting a stake into the compost pile or pit.
• add enough water if the moisture content is low and cover the pile or pit again.
• Remove the cover and turn the pile or pit properly after 3-4 weeks (first turn).
• during turning, add inoculants to increase decomposition again.
• cover the pile or pit again as mentioned earlier.
• Similarly, check the humidity every 4-5 days and add water if necessary.
• Remove the cap and return it properly after 7-8 weeks (second return)
• at this stage add inoculants to increase decomposition.
• even during the second rotation, if the moisture is not sufficient, water must be added.
• Even after the second rotation, check the moisture content every 4-5 days and if the moisture is not enough add water.
• Remove the cover and turn the compost properly after 11-12 weeks (3rd turn).
• After mixing, make the pile or pit again and cover as before.
• After 3 months in many cases the materials decompose well and the compost can be used for plant production.
Cage and barrel methods
• Prepare a cage with pegs or place a litter barrel or trash can in a convenient location.
• The advantage of these methods is that raw materials can be added at any time.
• fill the cage or barrel with different raw materials alternately according to the degree of their decomposition.
• in addition, add inoculants to increase the decomposition of raw materials.
• since drying is fast in the cage method, add water regularly to maintain reasonable moisture content inside the cage.
• Cover the top of the cage with coconut leaves or suitable covering materials to maintain optimum moisture content inside the cage.
Compost produced can be collected from the bottom of the cage or barrel.
Below are the benefits of using compost on farmland or gardens
• Increased yield.
• Improving the general fertility of the soil.
• Provision of humus or organic matter.
• Providing vitamins, hormones and plant enzymes that are not supplied by chemical fertilizers.
• Useful as a buffer against changes in soil pH.
• Compost is free of pathogenic organisms, weeds and other unwanted seeds.
• Compost nutrients are readily available.
• Easy to apply compared to other organic fertilizers.
For further enquiries, contact extension agents in your community or visit Isoya Rural Development Project, Department of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria for enquiries, clarifications, new knowledge and capacity building in production of organic fertilizers, packaging and utilization for backyard agriculture or vegetable production.
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