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Large quantity of fresh crop residues, on application directly to soil, causes extremely severe nitrogen immobilization and development of excessive reduced condition in the soil. To overcome such problems organic residues are piled up, moistened, turned occasionally to aerate and allowed adequate time to decompose partially and bring down the carbon nitrogen ratio to about 30. This process is called composting. Compost, is utilized for improving or maintaining soil fertility. The collected organic refuse may be of rural and urban origin and may include straw, leaves, paddy husk, ground nut husk, sugarcane trash, bagasse, cattle dung, urine, crop residues, city garbage, night soil, sewage, kitchen and vegetable wastes, hedge clippings, water hyacinth and all other residues counting organic matter. During composting under thermophilic and mesophilic conditions in windrows, heaps or pits adequate moisture and aeration are essential. The final product is brown to black colored humified material which on addition to soil replenishes plant nutrients, maintains soil organic matter content and helps in improving the physical, chemical and biological conditions of the soil.
REQUIREMENTS OF COMPOSTING
In general, composting is carried out in open pit or above ground, by filing alternate layers of organic wastes and other materials including top soil, cattle dung, half decompose farm yard manure, rock phosphate and other amendments. If the organic wastes are largely high-carbohydrate materials, 17 some fertilizer nitrogen is needed. The addition of poultry waste and farm yard manure while layering the compost pit, tends to speed up decomposition and helps to improve the texture of the product. The optimum C: N ratio of the composting materials is below 40. Good aeration in the compost pile is essential. It is good to mix succulent organic materials with the materials that decompose slowly. This prevents packing into soggy anaerobic mixtures. Since composting is a biological process, sufficient moisture for the proper development of microorganisms is essential. The materials should not be too dry or soggy. The requirement of moisture for microorganisms is almost similar to that of higher plants. The optimum moisture content of the composting materials has been found to be 60 percent of the total water holding capacity of the substrate.