[Market-farming] White bands in compost
igg at igg.com
Thu Dec 30 08:18:03 EST 2004
>Actinomycetes, fungi responsible for part of the composting process
>and the organisms that most people associate with the smell of
>"soil," form a white band about a foot from the outside of a
>well-made compost pile. They cannot live in the very hot
>temperatures in the interior, but need some warmth, which explains
>their location. Take a sniff--I bet they smell good. They are
I want to point out that Actinomycetes is a bacteria, and not a
fungi. As such, according to the Soil Food Web people, it can be
very detrimental addition to soil that requires mycorrhizal fungi.
The white, powdery 'bacterial growth' that I was referring to occurs
early in compost piles, usually observed in the first turning, and is
some times called 'firefang.' It is also a actinomycetes bacteria,
but I do not believe that this one creates compounds that we
associate with that 'before the rain' smell we all know and love.
(According to Elaine Ingham, the fungi responsible for the really
good smell of good soil (forest humus) are the basidiomycetes.) I
have heard stories of firefang reducing poorly managed stacks to
dust, but I've never seen anything like this.
I better say to anyone who is just starting farm scale composting
that the information I gave about wetting the stack with a sprayer on
a hose during construction is effective here in compost cloth covered
stacks in Shenandoah Valley in stacks that have a high carbon content
(horse manure, hay, straw). Wetting like we do (you never want to wet
enough to interfere with air passage in the stack) could be
detrimental in tropical areas. I point out the wetting process
because I believe that getting enough moisture in the stack at the
beginning has made a substantial difference in the quality of the
compost we make.
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