[permaculture] Heap Composting versus Field Composting
diebrand at yahoo.com
Mon Jun 25 18:56:27 EDT 2007
The conversion to no-till farming or gardening implies
a switch from heap composting to field composting.
Plant residues are left on the soil surface to decompose
as an organic mulching layer instead of being carried
to the compost heap.
For the last 3 years I have been trying to figure out
the respective advantages and disadvantages of the
The advantages of field composting are as follows:
1. Less labour
Plant residues can be left where they are cut and dont
need to be carried back and forth. The compost heap
does not need to be turned.
2. Fever losses of nutrients into the soil
Well cured compost has lost nutrients into the soil
through leaching. With field composting, leaching
into the soil is the desired result.
3. Fever losses into the air
The compost heap emits nutrients into the air, especially
during the high temperature phase.
4. More biological activity
In nature, plant residues deposited on the soil surface
are decomposed under aerobic conditions by numerous
creatures, including earthworms, aerobic microbes,
etc. If this biological phase takes place in the compost
heap instead of in the soil, it stands to reason that there
is less biological activity in the soil.
5. Better soil protection
If plant residues are moved to the compost heap, the
soil remains bare and exposed to erosion by wind,
sun and rain.
Some of the above may to open to debate. In particular,
point 3. above probably depends very much on the climatic
conditions. Under wet conditions a mulching layer will
disintegrate quickly into the soil, while during dry conditions
it is far more difficult to know how much of the plant residues
return to the soil and how much will volatize into the air.
Does anybody have information to clarify this last point?
Or know where I might find an answer? There is a book
entitled The Climate near the Ground by Rudolph Geiger.
Does anybody know this book? Or know whether it addresses
the kind of thing Im looking for?
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