Vermicompost and Coirpith Compost production

Composting is a biological process in which microorganisms decompose organic matter and lower the carbon-nitrogen ratio of the substrate. It is generally prepared from organic waste material such as crop residue, household waste etc.

Vermicompost

Vermitechnology is a process by which all types of biodegradable wastes such as farm wastes, kitchen wastes, market wastes, biowastes of agro-based industries, livestock wastes etc. are converted to nutrient rich vermicompost by using earthworms as biological agents. Vermicompost contains major and minor nutrients in plant available forms as well as enzymes, vitamins and plant growth hormones. 

Species suitable: Eudrillus eugineae has been identified as the most ideal species of earthworm for vermitechnology. 

Vermicomposting of farm wastes

Pits of size 2.5 m length, 1 m breadth and 0.3 m depth are taken in thatched sheds with sides left open. The bottom and sides of the pit are made hard by compacting with a wooden mallet. At the bottom of the pit, a layer of coconut husk is spread with the concave side up to ensure drainage of excess water and also for proper aeration. The husk is moistened and above this, biowaste mixed with cowdung in the ratio of 8:1 is spread up to a height of 30 cm above the ground level and water is sprinkled daily. After the partial decomposition of wastes for 7 to 10 days, the worms are introduced @ 500 to 1000 numbers per pit. The pit is covered with coconut fronds. Moisture is maintained at 40 to 50 per cent. After around 60 to 75 days, when the compost is ready, it is removed from the pit along with the worms and heaped in shade. The worms will move to bottom of the heap. After one or two days the compost from the top of the heap is removed. The undecomposed residues and worms are returned to the pit for further composting as described above. The vermicompost produced has an average nutrient status of 1.5 per cent N, 0.4 per cent P2O5 and 1.8 per cent K2O with pH ranging from 7.0 to 8.0. The nutrient level will vary with the type of material used for composting. 

Precautions

  1. The composting area should be provided with sufficient shade to protect it from direct sunlight.
  2. Adequate moisture level should be maintained by sprinkling water whenever necessary.
  3. Preventive measures should be adopted to ward off predatory birds, ants, rats, etc. 

Vermicomposting of coconut leaves

Weathered coconut leaves can be converted into good quality vermicompost in a period of three months with the help of earthworm, Eudrillus sp. On an average, 6-8 tonnes of leaves will yield 4-5 tonnes of vermicompost with about 1.2, 0.1 and 0.5 per cent N, P2O5 and K2O respectively. 

Vermicomposting of household wastes

A wooden box of 45 cm x 30 cm x 45 cm or an earthen/plastic container with broad base and drainage holes may be selected. A plastic sheet with small holes may be placed at the bottom of the box / container. A layer of soil of 3 cm depth and a layer of coconut fibre of 5 cm depth may be added above it for draining of excess moisture. A thin layer of compost and worms may be added above it. About 250 worms are sufficient for the box. Vegetable wastes of each day can be spread in layer over the coconut husk fibre. Top of the box may be covered with a piece of sac to provide dim light inside the box. When the box is full, it can be kept without disturbance for a week. When the compost is ready, the box can be kept outside for 2-3 hours so that the worms come down to the lower fibre layer. Compost from the top, may be removed, dried and sieved. The vermicompost produced has an average nutrient status of 1.8 per cent N, 1.9 per cent P2O5 and 1.6 per cent K2O, but composition will vary with the substrate used.

Coirpith composting

Coirpith, is produced in large quantities as waste material of the coir industry. Every year, approximately 2.5 lakh tonnes of coirpith accumulate in Kerala as waste. Coirpith has wide C:N ratio and its lignin rich nature does not permit natural composting process as in other agricultural wastes. Mushrooms belonging to the genus Pleurotus have the capacity to degrade part of the cellulose and lignin present in coirpith by production of enzymes such as., cellulases and lactases, bringing down the C:N ratio as well as lignin content. 

Method of composting

Materials required: Coirpith 1 tonne, urea 5 kg, mushroom (Pleurotus) spawn 1.5 kg. 

A shaded place of 5 m x 3 m dimension may be selected and levelled after removing weeds. 100 kg coirpith may be spread uniformly. Spread 300 g (one bottle or cover) of Pleurotus spawn on this and cover with a second layer of 100 kg coirpith. On the surface of the second layer, spread 1 kg urea uniformly. Repeat this sandwiching process of one layer of coirpith with spawn followed by another layer of coirpith with urea up to 1 m height. Sprinkle water if necessary to keep the heap moist. Allow the heap to decompose for one month. 

The coirpith is converted into good manure after 30-40 days and the lignin content is reduced from 30 per cent to 40 per cent. Another significant change is the lowering down of C: N ratio from 112:1 to 24:1. 

This coirpith compost contains macronutrients as well as micronutrients. It has the unique property of absorbing and retaining moisture to about 500-600 per cent. It improves the water infiltration rate and hydraulic conductivity of soil.

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