[permaculture] Humus

Dieter Brand diebrand at yahoo.com
Thu Nov 17 12:37:02 EST 2011

Thanks for your comments John.

I think the difference between compost/humus from an animal source and compost/humus from a plant source is first of all that the former is more concentrated, because a lot of plant material has gone into it.  So it is not surprising to find a higher concentration of whatever nutrient we are looking for.  The question really is, if the same amount of plant material were to go towards making compost/humus without first going through the guts of a foraging animal, would there be any qualitative difference?  And which would produce more humus in the end, i.e., which would involve the fewest losses?

If your reasoning concerning mineral deficiency and foraging animals is correct, nomads would have to be healthier than sedentary farmers.  I’m not convinced of that.  The argument about the superior health of the hunter gatherers is probably exaggerated or based on a small statistical base of a few archeological finds. 

You are probably right that cow manure is different from earthworm castings, but that doesn’t mean that the latter is inferior.  Microbes are of course involved in both cases.

If foraging animals serve to concentrate nutrients, so do plants.  Since we know fairly well which plant accumulates what nutrients, the farmer can chose green manure plants for accumulating certain nutrients.

A few years ago, I went to a beach nearby and collected some seaweed.  I will never do that again.  Even though I leached the seaweed in large amounts of spring water, the salt in the seaweed still caused the earthworms in my soil to disappear for over a year until they slowly started to come back.

Anyways, it is possible to grow food without livestock.  I have done it for 15 years – over which period the soil has remarkably improved.  Others have done it for much longer.  Maybe it would have been easier with manure, I don’t know.  Anyways, I keep on wondering about the difference.


--- On Wed, 11/16/11, John D'hondt <dhondt at eircom.net> wrote:

> - humus is formed by microorganisms in the soil direct or
> in the gut of 
> earthworms, that does not really count as having gone
> through an animal 
> organism imo
> - the big difference between organic material made from
> plants or from 
> animal manure is that plants are generally much less
> sensitive than animals 
> in case of severe mineral deficiencies. To do well animals
> must have all 
> nutrioents in abundance and their manure will then also be
> richer  in 
> nutrients than pure plant compost.
> Especially ruminants will forage as far and wide as
> possible to get 
> everything they need. If your flock is healthy their manure
> should be 
> superior to compost made from plant waste from the very
> spot you are going 
> to use that compost again.
> -if you don't have animals you could perhaps use seaweed or
> other sea 
> minerals incorporated in compost. Or you could do both.
> john

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