Compost is organic matter left to decompose, to be used as soil fertilizer. It is made by assembling plant and animal’s waste materials such as animal manure, leaves, tree trimmings and vegetable peels. Composting create an environment that favors billions of microbes and teems with life by providing food to the microbes hence playing a major role in the soil food web.

Compost helps to improve in soil structure in which the dead organic matter incorporate with inorganic particles such clay, silt and sand. They create pathways that enable circulation and free movement of air, water and nutrients in soil. Compost acts as an inoculum of the living organism and adds nutrients and organic materials to soil for growth and plants productivity.

Not all Composts are the Same

What is combine into compost have something to do with its end product. Hence, compost have a wide range in terms of characteristics in physical and nutrients capacity. Just like “soil types” been classified and we can easily identify a loamy or clay soil due to its predominant in a landscape, same case applies to compost, being not the same everywhere.

Using the soil food web science, you can make a compost that is dominant by fungi or compost that is dominant by bacteria. It all depends what incorporated into compost bin or pile. Composting speeds up the process of decomposition providing favorable conditions like digging, turning and watering the compost pile, for organic materials to break down within the shortest time possible. However, countless decomposer living organisms do most of the work. Plant prefer their nutrient uptake in different forms, some prefer nitrogen in ammonium form and others in nitrate form. So predominantly promoting compost to produce one of the forms of nitrogen over the other.In microbiology perspective of the compost, every material you incorporate whether leaves or tree trimmings changes the species dominance in the compost bin.

C: N Ratio and Fungal Vs. Bacterial Dominance

C: N is the ratio of mass of carbon to mass of nitrogen in organic materials.Carbon to nitrogen ratios indicate nitrogen limitation of plants and other organisms and canidentify whether molecules found in the sediment come from land-based or algal plants. In order for composting to take place C: N ratio is ideal to be around 25:1 to 30:1. If carbon is too much, nitrogen is quickly used up and the decomposition process slows. If nitrogen is too much, organisms use it up releasing carbon into the atmospheres or it has mixed with water and washed out of the pile. However, if the ratio is at the right proportion, the process speeds up and decomposition is complete. Many materials used in composting do not have the ideal C: N ratio of 25:1 to 30:1. As a result, they are mixed up to create the ideal compost recipe.

Composting materials are divided into two: brown and green. Brown organic materials are associated with fungi while fresh green organic materials like wood chips, twigs and leaves contain carbon that provides soil food web organisms with energy for metabolism. Fresh green materials like weeds, grass clippings are easier to digest, which is good for nitrogen source, hence attract bacteria. The fresher the green materials the more nitrogen it has. Nitrogen provides building blocks for proteins, used to produce digestive enzymes necessary for decomposition process.

Compost materials can be manipulated to either of high fungal or of high bacterial or a balance of the two. This done by simply increasing brown materials to encourage fungi amount or increase fresh green materials to increase bacteria presence.

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