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Composting, how it works: we explain how organic waste is transformed into compost, fertilizing soil for the garden.
Theretransformation of organic wastecompost is one of themany magicof thenature. But how does this mechanism occur and above all, how does it work? On this page I will reveal to you how, indeed,whooperates the transformation of waste into fertile soil.
How compost is produced
To understandhow the composting process worksYou just need to know that the waste matter (organic waste) can be food for animals and microorganisms which, by feeding, transform and recycle it.
The transformation of organic matter is a spontaneous biological process in nature. To understand how it works, I invite you to follow the instructions for "do-it-yourself composting" and observe, month after month, the evolution of the formation ofcompost.
The process of compost production differs from normal recycling for a greater speed of transformation of the organic substance linked to a significant development of heat.
How humus is formed
Smaller, you can think of the leaf falling from the tree. The leaf, on the ground, enters a very complex food chain. Someoneeat the leaf, after which this "someone" becomes food for other organisms and so on until the transformation of the original matter (the leaf) into humus.
Humus improves soil fertility.
Similarly, your organic waste re-enters a complex food chain and becomes fertilizer for the soil.
Composting, how it works
From a point of viewchemist, thecompostingit is a process ofbiological oxidation of organic matter.
Yes, the technical definition of composting can be precisely this: a process of biological oxidation of organic matter operated by a complex of organisms which, in the presence of oxygen, with their metabolism, transforms the raw material into a stable product, thecompost.
To best describehow composting works, it can be divided into two phases.
The first phase concerns the more easily decomposable organic substances. During this first phase we witness a sudden increase in the “ripening” temperature. In this phase, the product evolves and then, subsequently, stabilizes, enriching itself with precursors of humic substances.
Let's see in more detailhow composting worksand how to describe this complex biological process.
How composting works
The first phase is mainly carried out byaerobic bacteriaand involves easily degradable substances such as soluble sugars (glucose, fructose, sucrose), organic acids, proteins and simple fats.
In this first phase there is a high consumption of oxygen by the aerobic bacteria. These bacteria, processing the organic matter, begin to release heat causing the plant mass to reach a temperature above 60 ° C.
How is this heat released?
Bacterial activity breaks the bonds that hold the molecules together. Organic matter is made up of molecules, each time a bond is broken it releases energy in the form of heat.
Inhome compostingyou may have difficulty producing compost. These difficulties can occur especially when the first phase goes wrong! Organic waste of too large dimensions, scarce quantity of water and air, limit the composting process. What can you do? You have to keep the pile moist, turn it over often so as to make it permeable to air and chop the waste before adding it. These are all notions explained in the article dedicated todo it yourself composting.
In this first phase, the degradation of matter and the formation of toxic compounds for plants occurs. However, these compounds are rapidly metabolized by microbial populations. The presence of these toxic compounds is signaled by an acrid and pungent odor. It is for this reason that the use of newly activated compost is not recommended.
By maintaining high temperatures for long enough (at least a week at 60 °), the process of compostingcan be defined as well underway. The first phase ends with the training offresh compostalready suitable for agricultural use but not yet mature, therefore not yet considered asgood fertilizer.
The transformation of fresh compost intoorganic fertilizerit is called "maturation". If the first phase was operated by bacteria and microorganisms, the maturation of the compost is performed above all by fungi and actinomycetes (particular bacteria with a filamentous body, similar to that of fungi).
In the first phase, the bacteria have used all the simple substances, these substances are now finished and the aerobic bacteria have "starved to death" because all the matter they could use to feed is now finished.
From this moment thecompostingproceeds more slowly and more complex materials such as lignin, suberin, waxes, starch and cellulose are processed. The temperature drops between 40 - 45 ° C and then stabilizes a few degrees above ambient temperature.
In this last phase, you will also notice small animals that will colonize your compost in formation. Earthworms, insects, millipedes ... the activity of these little animals is essential because they will grind even more finely what was once waste. If you notice any worms in the compost bin, don't kill them, know that they are participating, with mushrooms, in the formation of mature compost!