Processes that occur in a compost (organic fertilizer).

Dear readers, in our blog we have been very emphatic with the implementation of ecological alternatives for agricultural production, one of the most recognized alternatives is compost, which is a solid organic fertilizer that is the result of a series of natural processes for decomposition of organic matter used. In the present publication, we will not deal with aspects related to its elaboration, but we will describe the processes that the organic matter goes through to obtain the compost. In future publications we will make a tutorial to explain in detail how it is elaborated.

Public domain image taken from flickr owned by Oregon State University

Let us begin by pointing out that composting is the result of a process of decomposition of organic matter by a great diversity of microorganisms in the presence of oxygen, the product obtained after decomposition should be free of pathogenic microorganisms, unpleasant odors and rich in nutritional substances of great importance for the growth and development of crops. In this sense, some authors point out that not all composting processes achieve the stabilization of organic matter, which is related to the humification process; on the other hand, it is also indicated that it is an aerobic process, because some operations are carried out to allow the entry of oxygen to the composted mass.

Humification: consists of a set of physical and chemical biological processes that transform organic matter into humus, humus is an advanced stage in the decomposition of organic matter, which improves some physical and chemical characteristics of the soil.
In the same vein, researchers such as Mendoza (2010), indicate that in compost there are two phases or stages, the first is called the active stage, known as such because the microorganisms act actively, since they have a high content of organic matter that can be degraded easily and in an accelerated manner.

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According to what has been mentioned, and as a result of some investigations that have been consulted, within the first stage known as active, three phases can be evidenced that are related to temperature, the first phase is known as mesophilic, which can be corroborated because the temperature of the composted mass reaches temperatures that oscillate between 10 and 40 °C, this increase in temperature is related to the presence of microorganisms. The second phase is known as thermophilic and is evidenced by the high temperature that the composted mass reaches during the course of the days, the temperature can oscillate between 40 and 70 °C, in this stage the mycoorganisms that tolerate the high temperature begin to be maintained and some pathogenic microorganisms that are present begin to be inhibited.

Design made with image from public domain Creative Commons

The last phase of the active stage is known as the cooling phase because the temperature begins to drop, proliferating other types of microorganisms, which begin to degrade the most resistant elements of organic matter such as cellulose and lignin. It is there where the maturation stage begins, where the stabilization processes start, giving rise to compost that presents very favorable characteristics for its addition to cultivated surfaces.

In order for the above mentioned stages to be fulfilled, it is important to apply some operations in order to have the ideal conditions, in this sense, it is important to turn or remove the organic material in piles, with the intention of aerating the material, this turning can be done periodically according to the methodology implemented by the technician or producer, turning the material will allow the activation of aerobic microorganisms and the fulfillment of the above mentioned phases. It is necessary to emphasize that the speed of transformation of the organic matter will depend on the aeration, humidity of the material and the type of composted material.

AGROTECNIA design by @amestyj with own image.

Final considerations
Dear readers, as we have seen, in order to obtain a quality compost through the composting method, the process is controlled by maintaining the adequate humidity level for the good development of microorganisms and, in addition, the necessary oxygen through the turning of the accumulated organic material. It can be said that these processes mimic the natural processes that occur in our ecosystems, the difference is that compost is a controlled process, which tends to achieve decomposition in a more accelerated manner, since in ecosystems it may take a little longer due to the amount of organic matter among other aspects that may intervene.

Compost, is an example of agro-ecological strategies that can be implemented to maintain the balance of our soils, imitate natural processes to rescue the health of our soils is a great alternative that has long known, but not all farmers apply it.

Bibliographic references
  • Mendoza D. 2010. Vermicompost and compost horticultural waste as substrate components for the production of ornamental and aromatic plant. Characterization of materials and plant response. Thesis Dr. Valencia, UPVA.

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