Questions about composting

Farmer talks about composting with the JPH Equipment CT360 Windrow Turner

Ged a dairy farmer from Tamborine in Queensland answers questions about composting and the JPH Equipment CT360 Windrow Turner,

This is a great video where Ged talks about how he got into composting, the lessons he has learnt and why he would recommend that you compost.

Other questions covered include

  • How hard is composting to do?
  • How would you start composting?
  • What resources do I need to begin composting ?
  • What space do I need to compost?
  • What tools & machinery do I need?
  • Do I need a turner to start?
  • Talking about the CT360 compost turner
  • What is the CT360 compost turner like to use
  • Have you owned any other turners?
  • CT360 Watering, Gearbox and Construction
  • What type of Tractor do I need
  • Do you recommend using a watering unit
  • How long does it take to make compost
  • How often do I need to work on the windrow?
  • Can you store the compost?
  • What effect does the composting have on your farm
  • How do I use/apply the compost
  • How long will it take to work
  • How much does it cost to do
  • Is composting really worth it Time, Effort and Cost? fertilisers are easier aren’t they
  • Can you sell the compost?
  • Sum up how the composting journey has been for you

As you most likely know Compost is a natural soil improver made from broken-down organic matter, and it contains three things of vital importance to farmers. Humus, that’s the dark spongy material that makes good soil the colour of chocolate, Recycled plant nutrients and most importantly billions of microscopic lifeforms which create a healthy soil ecosystem (Read more about the soil food web).

Healthy soil creates healthy plants, which creates healthy humans. And to this end, composting is an important tool. Some of the benefits of compost include: improving drainage and nutrient availability in clay soils. Improveing water and nutrient holding capacity of sandy soils, helping neutralise pH of both acidic and alkaline soils and lstly many toxins are broken down in the composting process, while others such as heavy metals in city soils become locked up and less available to plants when compost is added.

 

Composting wet hay

Composting Spoiled Hay

In recent years many areas of Australia have been impacted by heavy rains and flooding spoiling hay and crops, Composting has been found to have the greatest potential to return some benefit to the farm and this is the focus of this fact sheet by Declan McDonald, Kevin Wilkinson and Sally Stead from the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries.

What is compost?

Aerobic composting is the rapid decomposition of organic materials into a humus-rich product ideally suited to soil improvement. High temperatures are naturally generated during the composting process resulting in the destruction of any weed seeds and pathogens that may be present in the raw organic materials.

Why do it?

If your farm produces sizeable quantities of ‘waste’ materials each year (e.g. spoiled hay, silage, manures etc.), then composting is a good way of improving your soil and extracting extra value from what was previously often regarded as waste.

Compost contains valuable nutrients and is rich in humus. Humus is long-lasting in the soil and can be beneficial in providing for improved physical, chemical and biological conditions.

How to compost anything!

This photograph shows the compost window

Figure 1. A compost windrow

While there are numerous composting methods available, the most simple and cost effective for farmers is the ‘Turned Windrow’ method. This involves piling organic materials in correct proportions, and with adequate moisture, in rows on a suitable surface and then mixing well. The dimensions of the windrow depend on the types of materials being composted, the space available and equipment being used. For a manure-based operation, the height of the windrow will be typically around 1.5m, with the base at two to three metres wide. The length of the row can be as long as space permits (Figure 1).

Many farm wastes (e.g. manure, hay, silage, sawdust) can be composted with minimal pre-treatment. Other wastes that become available from time to time (e.g. woody wastes) may need to be chopped up because they are too coarse. Once the wastes are correctly mixed in the right proportions, and at the right moisture content, the composting process will begin.

Composting is a biological process, carried out by microorganisms that are naturally present in the environment – so no special inoculants are required. All you need to do is provide organic materials in the right proportions, with moisture, and the microbes will do the rest!

Understanding the conditions required by the composting microbes is paramount to successful composting. Microorganisms have three basic needs and when these are provided the composting process will proceed and the mix will heat up. These needs are:

  1. oxygen
  2. adequate moisture
  3. suitable food supply.

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