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This manual describes the experiences of a project titled Soil Health and Fertility carried out in collaboration with United States Department of Agriculture and International Center of Arid Agriculture in Dry Areas at Dera Ismail Khan. The manual focuses on methods for both on farm large scale composting, and household small scale composting with special emphasis on Composting in Arid environments. The methods range from barrel, heap to tank composting and its application on crops. It describes the preparation of compost tea and its applications as well.

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  • Composting A Manual for Improving Soil Fertility and Health in Pakistan Through

    Demonstration and Dissemination of Best Management Practices for Farmers

    Wajid Ali, Amjad Khan, Kifayatullah, Muhammad Faisal Jan and Saba Shoukat

    National Center of Excellence in Geology, University of Peshawar

  • Composting- A Manual for Improving Soil Fertility and Health in Pakistan

    Through Demonstration and Dissemination of Best Management Practices for

    Farmers

    Prepared By

    Wajid Ali

    Amjad Khan

    Kifayatullah

    Muhammad Faisal

    Saba Shoukat

    National Center of Excellence in Geology, University of Peshawar

    nceg.upesh.edu.pk

    First Edition, October, 2015

    Copyrights 2015

  • Acknowledgements

    The authors highly appreciate the support, help and advice extended by Dr Muhammad Aslam and Ms Nazia

    Tahir of International Center for Agriculture Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA). This work was carried out

    under the project titled Improving Soil Fertility and Health in Pakistan through Demonstration and

    Dissemination of Best Management Practices for Farmers conducted by National Center of Excellence in

    Geology, University of Peshawar in collaboration with ICARDA with the financial and technical support of

    United States Department of Agriculture. Further we would like to extend our deepest gratitude to Prof. Dr M

    Tahir Shah (T.I.) Director NCEG for his support and guidance. We would also like to thank Nisar Ali Shah,

    Abdul Hassan, Arshad Farooq and Dr Muhammad Ishaq of Social Sciences Research Institute for their

    valuable comments and suggestions.

    Citation: Ali. W, Khan. A, Ullah. K, Faisal. M, and Shoukat. S. Composting- A Manual for Improving Soil

    Fertility and Health in Pakistan through Demonstration and Dissemination of Best Management Practices

    for Farmers. 2015

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    Contents

    Soil Health ...................................................................................................................................... 3

    4Rs of Soil Health and Fertility ..................................................................................................... 3

    Basics of Composting ..................................................................................................................... 4

    General Rules of Thumb ................................................................................................................. 4

    Brown Material ............................................................................................................................... 5

    Green Material ................................................................................................................................ 6

    Tank Method ................................................................................................................................... 7

    Sequence of Layers ..................................................................................................................... 7

    Compost Bins ................................................................................................................................ 10

    Heap Composting.......................................................................................................................... 15

    Steps in the Formation of Heap ................................................................................................. 15

    Compost Tea ................................................................................................................................. 17

    Benefits of Compost Tea ........................................................................................................... 17

    Passive Compost Tea Preparation Method................................................................................ 18

    Benefits of Aeration .................................................................................................................. 18

    Compost Tea Application.......................................................................................................... 18

    Compost Application Methods ..................................................................................................... 21

    Compost Application Based on Fertilizer Recommendation .................................................... 21

    Routine Application Rates ........................................................................................................ 22

    Compost Trouble Shooting ........................................................................................................... 24

    References ..................................................................................................................................... 25

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    Soil Health For soil to be fertile it needs to be healthy a healthy soil is full of microscopic life that helps cycle

    nutrients and water efficiently for crop growth. Techniques that build soil organic matter help keep soils

    well-nourished and better able to store moisture to help crops survive dry periods. Farmers can keep

    soil healthy by disturbing it less, building up soil organic matter, using a legume in rotation, adding

    organic manures, composts & Bio-fertilizers, and protecting the soil by leaving it covered with crop

    residues. Help to nourish the life in your soil and improve the capacity of the soil to hold water and

    nutrients for crops. Healthy soil builds soil fertility.

    4Rs of Soil Health and Fertility When soils are deficient in certain crop nutrients they have to be replenished to keep soil fertile. In case

    these nutrients are added in soils in the form of chemical fertilizers, it is imperative to take care of 4 Rs

    i.e. RIGHT kind of nutrients in RIGHT amount to be applied at RIGHT time with RIGHT method to

    the crops to harvest the potential yield.

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    Basics of Composting

    The use of animal manure as a nutrient supplement in agriculture is an ancient and commonly

    used practice. However, animal manure directly applied to soils takes too much time to

    decompose. It is believed that direct manure application may take 3 years or more to contribute

    its benefits. Chemical fertilizers on the other hand are costly and detrimental to environment.

    Nutrients especially Nitrogen in the chemical fertilizers is easily leached away and carried away

    by the surface water. Nitrates contamination of the groundwater is a well-known concern for

    environmental scientists throughout the world. Some countries in order to curb the Nitrate

    contamination of their groundwater resources monitor and regulate the input of Nitrate fertilizers

    to agriculture fields. Composting is an artificially accelerated method of humus (final product of

    decomposition referred to as Mature Compost) formation from organic waste material. Compost

    is not only rich in Nitrates but also contain other macro and micro nutrients in smaller amounts.

    The concentration of nutrients in compost, are variable and depend on the type of raw materials

    used to prepare it. Mature compost helps in adding essential plant nutrients and organic matter.

    Nitrates in compost leach slowly thus making it safe for both groundwater and surface water.

    Composting may be aerobic or anaerobic. The presence of oxygen helps in speeding up the

    decomposition process, thus making aerobic composting faster than the previous.

    Two types of raw materials are used for manufacturing of compost i.e. Brown or Dry material

    and Green materials. Brown material is the chief source of Carbon while Green material adds

    Nitrates. Composting process depends on the decomposing (Good microbes) bacteria. Ideal C:N

    ratio of the organic mixed raw material to start composting is 25 or 30:1. If ratio is wider add

    nitrogenous material on small quantity of urea in it. If the C:N ratio is narrow than this please

    add some more brown material in it. Temperature inside compost may rise up to 65 or 70oC

    during active composting. When it cools down to surrounding temperature the compost is

    complete.

    Accelerants like super phosphate and effective microbes could be added to get a kick start.

    Biogas slurry also serves as accelerants. Composting can be done in underground trenches or pits

    or above ground by forming heaps. It can also be carried out in piles, tanks, barrels, or wire bins

    etc.

    General Rules of Thumb

    1. The size of the compost pile shall not be less than 3 cubic feet.

    2. No two composts are the same

    3. Mature compost is either black or brown

    4. Mature compost shall be granular or fine in texture

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    5. The original raw materials shall not be recognizable in the final product.

    6. It should smell like earth (foul smell means that the process is not yet complete)

    7. Do not put ashes, cooked material, meat, bones, hair, or waste from carnivorous animals.

    8. Moisture content shall not exceed 50 %

    9. Minimum moisture level shall not fall below 40 %

    10. pH shall be alkaline

    11. Do not put pine needles, Tamarix leaves and fresh mango leaves in your compost piles.

    12. The material size shall not exceed 2 inches, make sure to chop it as small as possible

    13. Compost needs regular turning depending on the type of method. Turning helps in mixing

    of the material and proper a