Composting made easy

Photo credit: Agricultures Network

In 8-12 weeks, the straw from a hectare of paddy can produce 2.5 tonnes of good quality compost. Photo: U Kyaw Saing

Keeping composting simple

EXCERPT
More than two decades ago in the Irrawaddy delta in Myanmar, farmers began planting two rice crops each year. Rice production increased, but for how long? Depleted organic matter and acidification are now affecting soil health, and farmers who can’t afford fertilizer are seeing their rice yields declining. This is why 200 farmers started to compost rice straw. With this they have been able to maintain rice yields and reduce fertilizer costs. They are still improving their composting techniques and some are starting to experiment with green manures.
Over the past year farmers have built over 200 compost piles and are already experiencing the benefits. Photo: Myo Kyaw Kyaw - http://www.agriculturesnetwork.org/magazines/global/soils-for-life/composting/addingsoiltocompost.jpg
Over the past year farmers have built over 200 compost piles and are already experiencing the benefits. Photo: Myo Kyaw Kyaw – http://www.agriculturesnetwork.org/magazines/global/soils-for-life/composting/addingsoiltocompost.jpg

Compost made easy

In 8-12 weeks, the straw from a hectare of paddy can produce 2.5 tonnes of good quality compost, which when added to the soil provides 50 kg of nitrogen, or 40-50% of the total nitrogen requirements of a rice crop. Cutting fertilizer costs by half is a huge advantage for farmers as they struggle with debt from the need to buy more and more fertilizer each year.

The basic compost combination is dry matter, fresh green matter and a microbial input. Rice straw, dried leaves and even coconut fibre are good sources of dry matter. Freshly cut leaves and weeds, banana trunks, water hyacinth, or any plants in and around the fields and gardens are used as green matter. The microbial input helps to transform the biomass into the nutrient-rich material we call compost, whether it is fresh soil, forest humus, animal manure or fresh compost. Handfuls of wood ash add phosphorus and potassium and even the basic combination can be adapted. If a farmer has no more green matter, he will still get compost but of a different quality. And if manure is in short supply, it helps to add a diluted solution of cow or pig dung with rice straw and other dry matter. This promotes the growth of microbes, nitrogen content and decomposition, and is a cheap and easy way to overcome the lack of green matter or manure.

Read the full article: Agricultures Network

 

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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