What is Compost, Types of Compost, Compost Methods

What is compost? Hello farmers, would you be interested in compost definition, types of composting, and composting methods? well, we are here today with a great information. Compost is decomposed organic material and it is made with material such as leaves, shredded twigs, and kitchen scraps from plants. Composting is a good way to recycle leaves and other yard waste.

Composting is nature’s method of recycling. Composting biodegrades organic waste that is food waste, manure, leaves, grass trimmings, paper, wood, feathers, crop residue, etc. and turns it into valuable organic fertilizer.

Composting, Types of compost, Composting process

Composting is a natural biological procedure, carried out under controlled aerobic conditions (requires oxygen). In this process, different microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi, break down organic matter into simpler substances. The composting process is mainly dependent upon the environmental conditions present within the composting system such as oxygen, temperature, moisture, organic matter and the size and activity of microbial populations.


Compost Process.
Compost Process.

Composting Methods

Different Composting methods are given below;

Hot Composting

Hot composting is the most efficient system for producing quality compost in a relatively short time. Also, it favors the destruction of weed seeds, fly larvae, and the pathogens.  While hot composting, using the windrow method or bin method, requires a high degree of management, hot composting, using the in-vessel method, requires a lesser degree of management.

Cold Composting

This process is ideal for adding organic matter around trees, in garden plots, in eroded areas, etc. The time required to decompose organic matter using this process is governed, to a large extent, by environmental conditions and could take two years or more.

Sheet Composting

Sheet composting is carried out by spreading organic material on the surface of the soil or and allowing it to decompose naturally. Over time, the organic material will decompose and filter into the soil. This process is ideally suited for forage land, no-till applications, erosion control, roadside landscaping, etc. The procedure does not favor the destruction of weed seeds; fly larvae, pathogens, etc. and composting materials must be limited to plant residue and manure. Again, decomposition time is governed by environmental conditions and can be lengthy. 

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Trench Composting

Trench composting is simple. Simply dig a trench 6 to 8 inches deep, fill with 3 – 4 inches of organic material and cover with soil. And wait a few weeks and plant directly above the trench. This process does not favor the destruction of weed seeds, fly larvae, and pathogens, and the composting process can be relatively slow.

The function of Compost in soil

Compost adds balanced nutrients to the soil in an easily assimilated form and helps improving soil structure by lightening heavy clays and will improving water retention properties in porous sands. This will allow air and microorganism to pass more freely and lets roots grow easily into the soil. Compost absorbs large amounts of water from the air, twice as much as garden soil; nearly four times as much as clay; and eight times more than sand.

The water is held in reserve so plants can use it during dry seasons. Compost has the nutrients nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that are found in chemical fertilizer and even trace elements (such as zinc, iron, and magnesium) that are not, and which are very useful to the roots of growing plants.

The Composting process

The composting process is carried out by a diverse population of predominantly aerobic micro-organisms that decompose organic material to produce and reproduce. The activity of these micro-organisms is encouraged through the management of the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio (C: N), oxygen supply, moisture content, temperature, and pH of the compost pile. Properly managed composting process increases the rate of natural decomposition and generates sufficient heat to destroy weed seeds, pathogens, and fly larvae.

During the composting, carbon dioxide and water are lost to the atmosphere and the size of the pile decreases approximately 30 to 60%. Also, several weed seeds and disease-causing organisms may be killed by the high temperatures in the pile. Unpleasant odors will be eliminated. Flies, a common problem around manures and organic wastes, are much less of a problem with composts.

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The compost pile must be periodically mixed to incorporate oxygen. Regularly verify the internal temperature and turn over the mixture when it reaches 140°F. The compost pile must be built in layers 3 – 4 inches deep. The composting process still happens if the pile is not turned, but the materials break down slowly.

The composting process involves four main components;

  • Organic matter,
  • Moisture,
  • Oxygen, and
  • Bacteria

Organic matter includes plant materials and several animal manures. Organic materials used for compost must contain a mixture of brown organic material such as dead leaves, twigs, manure and green organic material like lawn clippings, fruit rinds, etc. Brown materials will supply carbon, while green materials supply nitrogen.

Moisture is very important to support the composting process. Compost must be comparable to the wetness of a wrung-out sponge. If the pile is too dry, materials will decompose slowly. Add water during dry periods or when adding a large quantity of brown organic material.

Oxygen is required to support the breakdown of plant material by bacteria. To supply oxygen, you will want to turn the compost pile so that materials at the edges are brought to the center of the pile. Turning the pile is very important for complete composting and controlling odor.

Bacteria and other microorganisms are the real workers in the composting process. By supplying organic materials, water, and oxygen, the present bacteria will break down the plant material into useful compost for the garden. As the bacteria decompose the plant materials, they release heat and which is concentrated in the center of the pile.

Organic Composting

Organic compost is an organic matter that has been broken down by the microbes. Compost is a main key ingredient in all soils. It adds organic matter, improves sandy soils, encourages beneficial microbes and earthworms, increases nutrients, and improves soil texture.

It is used in several applications, for example, in gardens, landscaping, horticulture, urban agriculture, and organic farming. The compost is useful for the land in several ways, including as a soil conditioner, a fertilizer, addition of vital humus, and used as a natural pesticide for soil.

Applications of Compost

Compost can be used in several applications. High-quality compost can be used in agriculture, horticulture, urban agriculture, landscaping, and home gardening. Medium quality compost can be used in many applications such as erosion control and roadside landscaping. Low-quality compost can be used as landfill cover applications or in land reclamation projects.

Advantages of Composting

The advantages of composting will be given below;

  • Composting useful for enriches the soil, helping retain moisture and suppress plant diseases and pests.
  • It reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.
  • Reduces methane emissions from landfills and lowers carbon footprint.
  • Composting reduces the decline in nitrogen availability that normally occurs when organic materials, such as sawdust or straw, are added directly to the soil.
  • Composting is also useful for recycling kitchen wastes, leftover crop residues, weeds, and manures. Many kinds of local organic waste, such as apple pumice, lake weeds, leaves, and grass clippings, can be composted.
  • Compost has less nitrogen than biosolids from other stabilization processes, due to the loss of ammonia during the composting process. However, nitrogen in compost is released slowly and is available to plants over a long period, which is more consistent with plant uptake needs.
  • Windrow and aerated static pile composting need relatively large areas, and odor control is a common problem.
  • Ambient temperatures and weather conditions influence windrow and aerated static pile composting process.

Windrow composting

This is the production of compost by piling organic matter or biodegradable waste such as animal manure and also crop residues. This process is suited to producing large volumes of compost.

Vegetable waste with high moisture content and readily biodegradable nature are causing main environmental problems due to improper waste management practices in the World. So, composting and vermicomposting could be considered the best alternative process for the treatment of these organic fractions.

Windrow composting involves aerobic bioconversion of organic matter to stable compost with the release of heat, water vapor and carbon dioxide (CO2), in which the pile composting can be used only for small quantities of input materials.

However, the windrow composting process allows large quantities of materials to be composted, having a geometrical shape ranging from 2 to 4 m wide and 2 to 3 m high at the starting of the Windrow composting process. The application of windrow compost or any other compost can drastically decrease the usage of ammonia-type fertilizers.

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Worm Composting or Vermicompost

Worm composting or vermicomposting process is using worms to recycle food scraps and other organic material into a valuable soil amendment called vermicompost or worm compost. Worms eat food scraps, which become compost as they pass through the worm’s body and compost exits the worm through its’ tail end. This compost can then be used to grow several plants. To know why vermicompost is good for plants, remember that the worms are eating nutrient-rich fruit and vegetable scraps, and turning them into nutrient-rich compost.

This is a type of composting process in which earthworms are used to enhance the process of organic waste conversion and forms a better end-product. It is a mesophilic procedure utilizing microorganisms and worms. Earthworms feed the organic waste materials and pass it through their digestive system and give out in a granular form (cocoons) which is called vermicompost.

The types of vermicomposting mainly depend upon the amount of production and composting structures. Small-scale vermicomposting is done to meet personal requirements and farmers can harvest 5-10 tons of vermicompost annually.

On the other hand, large-scale vermicomposting is done at a commercial scale by recycling huge quantities of organic waste in modern facilities with the production of more than hundreds of tons annually.

The worm castings have a higher percentage of both macro and micronutrients than the garden compost. Apart from other nutrients, a fine worm cast is rich in NPK which are in readily obtainable form and are released within a month of application. Vermicompost enhances plant growth, suppresses disease in plants, increases porosity and microbial activity in the soil, and it improves water retention and aeration.

Bio Compost

The bio-compost means plant matter that has been decomposed and recycled as a fertilizer or manure. Bio-compost is considered as the main ingredient in organic farming. It is rich in nutrients.

Bio-compost is an eco-friendly organic fertilizer. Bio-compost is prepared from the sugar industry waste material which is decomposed and enriched with several plants and human-friendly bacteria and fungi.

Aerobic Composting

Aerobic composting is the decomposition of organic matter using microorganisms that need oxygen.  The microbes mainly responsible for composting are naturally occurring and live in the moisture surrounding organic matter. Oxygen from the air diffuses into the moisture and taken up by the microbes. As aerobic digestion takes place the by-products that are heat, water and carbon dioxide (CO2). While CO2 can be classified as a greenhouse gas it’s an evolution from the composting is not counted in emissions. 

Anaerobic Composting

Anaerobic composting is decomposition that occurs using microorganisms that do not require oxygen to survive. In an anaerobic composting system the majority of the chemical energy contained within the starting material is released as methane. The procedure is characterized by very strong odors and only a small amount of heat is generated meaning decomposition takes much longer and doesn’t reach sufficient temperatures to safely kill plant pathogens, weed and seeds. To overcome these limitations external or artificial heat is normally added.

Stages of Composting

The different stages of compost include;

  • The mesophilic phase;
  • The thermophilic phase;
  • The cooling phase; and
  • The curing phase.

Difference between Compost and Vermicompost

Composting is an aerobic process with high temperatures, while vermicomposting is a procedure where worms do the work. This means that vermicomposting is a low-temperature procedure.

Vermicomposting can be done in very small bins to bathtub size vessels. The worms in vermicomposting eat through the kitchen waste and paper that is added. It is a moist process and any drainage is commonly used as a worm tea. Vermicomposting can be done on a larger scale, but the waste should be applied in thin layers to not to overheat the pile or overfeed the worms. Worms are sensitive animals and can take off when conditions are not right.

Compost piles are normally hot as the aerobic breakdown of organic matter releases carbon dioxide and heat, resulting in piles than can top 150°F. This is good because the heat can kill the pathogens present in compost input.

Composting with worms is a necessarily cooler procedure with temperatures ranging between 50-90°F. The downside to less heat is that vermicomposting will not kill any pathogens present in the food waste, manure, or whatever you’re feeding worms.

Compost machine price in India

The cost of Compost machine in India will be given below;

Generally, the cost of Semi-Automatic Food Waste Compost Machine will be approximately Rs 2 Lakh/ Set and its capacity will be 200 kg.

The cost of Fully Automatic Organic Waste Composting Machine will be Rs 3.45 Lakh/ Unit and its capacity will be 50 kg/day.

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