Organic Composting, Fertiliser & Pest Control
Azola Nitrogen Fixer
Cow Urine & Dung
Panchagami : Urine + Dung + Ghee + Honey + Curd
Leaf litter & organic waste
The first settlers of Auroville found barren wasteland devoid of topsoil, organic matter and plant life. Many settlements were started by drilling a well, putting up protective fencing, and then planting and watering. Climatic conditions are such that development of biomass is abundant wherever land is fenced against stray cattle and protected against theft and inconsiderate exploitation. Composting of leaf litter and organic waste is therefore fairly common in Auroville.
Many community settlements and households have a composting site, either arranged in a pit for anaerobic composting, or in a heap or windrow for aerobic composting.
Anaerobic composting is, apart from digging a pit, practically labour-free. After many months – up to one year – the pit can be emptied and will yield a fairly well-matured compost. Depending on the season and the actual rainfall during the composting time, the end product may still have smelly anaerobic lumps and not be pleasant to handle. It might not be the right treatment for young & tender and sensitive plants or seedlings.
Aerobic composting in a heap yields, in general, a better matured compost, and this within a shorter period i.e. two to four months. But it requires more attention and labour. If properly built up i.e. with enough twiggy roughage as a base, aeration of the heap, and thus aerobic composting processes, is assured. It is recommended to turn the heap at least once, not for aeration, but for a thorough breakdown of thicker wood pieces. During a long dry spell, the compost heap should be watered. This kind of composting usually yields a fine, crumbly and pleasant end product. Its nutrient content depends to a large extent on the raw materials which have gone into the heap. The loss in nutrients is always quite big in this type of composting, but it is said to cultivate the soil organisms appropriate for the topsoil.
Composting with earthworms – vermicomposting – was introduced to Auroville in the late eighties. It might be mentioned that every good aerobic compost heap harbours earthworms, but vermicomposting is set up in such a way that the worms can multiply optimally and do thorough processing of all compostable matter. The end product is a compost of ideal constitution and structure. A vermicompost unit has to be set up in such a way that the worms are protected against chickens, other birds and rodents. It also has to be protected against heavy rains and/or be extremely well-drained. Daily attention is a must, as a drop in ideal water content interferes with the optimal activity of the worms. Various earthworm species are being propagated as ideal candidates for vermicompost, but it is always possible to use the species which are locally available in Auroville, namely Lampito mauritii and Perionyx excavatus.
Another useful and valuable product of vermicompost is vermiwash, which is said to have growth-promoting and pest-repelling properties. In order to harvest vermiwash, the vermiculture is handled slightly differently.
At present, AuroAnnam farm, Discipline farm, Revelation farm and a few individuals are known to practice vermicomposting.
Biodynamic compost (BD)
Since 1997 biodynamic (BD) preparations made in south India have become available to Auroville farmers and gardeners. Annapurna farm, AuroAnnam farm and Discipline farm have been the most active in their use. The BD compost preparations are made from various plants in contact with animal parts, and undergo an elaborate processing before they can be used. The preparations are put into the heap or windrow when it is completely built up and “sealed” with a skin of plant material e.g. coir fibres or cow dung slurry. They ensure an extremely thorough decomposition of the compostable matter and an end product of highest quality. Proper build-up, aeration, moistening, and at least one turning are required, as for any other aerobic compost.
The use of basalt meal – if available – or rock phosphate, of slaked lime, and of wood ashes is part of the BD compost, but may form part of any other (aerobic) compost, too. Bonemeal is, in principle, a very good substitute for animal manure, but its source and constitution may be dubious.
Effective micro-organisms (EM)
EM technology – the use of a liquid culture of “Effective Microorganisms” – can also be used for composting. EM is sprinkled during build-up of the compost heap layer by layer. This type of compost can and should be used very fast – within two weeks – to achieve the maximum benefit from the organisms inoculated into the heap. The fact that lots of organic matter may not yet be decomposed is desirable in this case, as the propagation and metabolic activity of the organisms depends on the availability of carbon from organic matter.
EM for composting is being used at AuroAnnam farm and Discipline farm.
In various regions of India other techniques of composting have been developed. Their characteristics are usually based on regional climatic factors and on availability of building materials and type of compostable matter.
Comparison between BD and EM compost
All these forms of composting have their advantages and disadvantages. The products of higher quality are generally associated with more labour. The basic difference between BD compost and EM compost may be characterised as follows: BD preparations and BD compost are capable of building up long-term soil fertility and highest crop qualities while, in later years, requiring minimal input. EM technology and EM composting leads to very quick and obvious results as regards quantity and quality of yield, but requires input at higher frequency.
Because of the labour intensity of composting – mainly the gathering and transporting of materials – some farms try to replace it to a large extent by direct use of biomass on the fields i.e. by mulching and green manuring.
The Auroville Eco-Service operates a mobile desludging unit that can be called to desludge septic tanks and other sludge holding devices. The sludge is processed in pits by co-composting with carbon-rich material such as coir pith or wood waste and treated with EM. The compost produced is used in forestry. Presently the sludge pits are in the compound of the Botanical Garden, and their team collaborates in running the operations.
Regarding EM, BD, vermicompost – AuroAnnam
Regarding AV farms – Farm Group Office / Lloyd
HAVE YOUR OWN VERMICOMPOSTING UNIT
WHAT IS VERMICOMPOSTING ?
Vermicomposting is the process by which we can convert organic waste into rich humus by using red earthworms. After a worm ingests organic matter, the matter undergoes a change and what comes out is a rich plant food !
|HOW TO DO VERMICOMPOSTING AT HOME?
1. Take a broad earthen pot or an old plastic crate. Put a layer of soil at the bottom. Add a layer of cowdung manure or fresh cow dung ontop of this.
2. Introduce some earthworms in it. Put some vegetable peels and leftover food into one corner of the pot , and cover it with a layer of dried leaves.
3. Sprinkle little water to maintain the moisture. Never flood the pot with water as this would cause the worms to drown. During rains cover the pot.
4. The next day remove the leaves and add some more garbage in a separate place. Cover it with leaves again and sprinkle some more water.
5. Repeat the above procedure till the pot is full.
6. Leave the pot for six weeks, but sprinkle water daily.
7. Compost would be ready after 5 – 6 weeks. Compost is ready when all the garbage has decomposed and the pot is full of dark soil like granular substance.
WHAT WASTE CAN YOU ADD ?
Bio-degradable matter like kitchen and garden waste should be added to the pot. This means all vegetable peels, leftover food, tea leaves, dead leaves and plants. Egg shells should be broken into small pieces before adding it. Meat waste tends to attract mice, so avoid putting it.
Do not add material like plastic, metal, rubber, glass and printed paper.
WHERE SHOULD I KEEP THE POT WITH THE WORMS ?
Best is to keep it at the corner your garden, in a shaded place. If you do not have a garden, keep it in the corner of your balcony / terrace (prefer a shady corner). The place should also be sheltered from other animals like cats, dogs and mice. Keeping it in your room is not a good idea as the pot may attract insects which you may not welcome.
WHAT ABOUT OTHER INSECTS THAT WILL APPEAR IN THE POT?
All kinds of creatures may creep into your pot. This is normal, do not panic. These bugs are harmless and even complementary to your worms.
If there is an excessive amount of other insects in the pot, uncover the pot. Make a few cone shaped piles in sunlight and fresh air. The sunlight and fresh air and general disturbance would scare off the insects.
Else you could also add a little haldi powder to keep away other insects.
If ants are a problem, then keep a water filled container around the pot, to keep away the ants.
If rats are a problem in your area, cover the pot with an iron mesh or a tin plate with holes.
HOW TO SEPARATE THE COMPOST AFTER 5-6 WEEKS ?
Uncover the pot and put it in bright sunlight. The worms hate light and will burrow down.
Remove the top portion of the compost. The worms will again burrow down.
Remove another layer of compost. Repeat till 75% of compost has been removed.
You can now use the pot for further composting.
The worms would have multiplied by now. Take half the worms and expand the composting into another pot or help your friend start her/ his own worm composting.
WHERE TO USE THE COMPOST ?
Sprinkle the compost into your pots, flower beds, etc. Do not use pure compost in pots but dilute it with soil and sand.
WHAT EARTHWORMS ARE SUITABLE FOR VERMICOMPOSTING?
Three species of earthworms are generally used in India for vermicomposting:
Eudrilus eugeniae ( African Night Crawler)
Eisenia foetida ( Tiger Worm)
Perionyx excavatus (India Blues)
These may be easily obtained from any organisation / farm in your place practising vermicomposting.
Neem Leaves, Seeds, Oil
« Chili Spread : Chili + Pepper + Garlic + Dry Ginger + Neem Leaves»
Animals Urine & Dung
Various types of pesticides are commonly used in farming to fight diseases as well as keeping birds and insects away from the crop.
Pesticides contain chemicals that cause severe damage to the environment, and it can also affect the health of humans.
Statistics show that between 95 and 98 per cent of pesticides reach another destination than their target destination.
When sprayed it can be carried off by wind to other distant areas, and when it seeps into the soil it pollutes groundwater supplies as well as rivers and streams.
This is especially a problem here in India, as rivers and streams work as a direct watersource for the majority of the population and the water from the rivers are used for everyday needs such as bathing and brushing teeth.
When pesticides are absorbed into the soil it can make it less fertile, and some of the chemicals can remain in the soil for decades, making the land difficult to cultivate for further generations.
Health effects on humans associated with pesticide poisoning can have many forms from a mild skin irritation to birth defects, nerve disorders and cancer, and farmers and their families are especially endangered due to repeated exposure.
Diseases, as well as insects and birds eating off the plants can ruin a whole crop, which can have severe consequences for a family who depends only on the income from their crops, which is the reason pesticides are widely utilized even though they are harmful to the environment as well as animals and humans.
However, every living creature has a mean for survival, and in organic farming one takes advantage of the defence mechanisms that are naturally developed in the plants without risking the damage that are caused by pesticides