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Farm Composting Made Easy

24th Jun 2016

This article comes from the Practical Farm Ideas blog, written by Jason Allan and Mike Donovan, back in 2013.  To read the article in its original form click here.

Composting is not a regular farm activity. Conventional farmers get nutrients from chemicals and through crop rotations, as well as spreading dung from their livestock enterprises, should they have them. Organic farmers, who are forbidden the use of chemical fertilisers, have to rely entirely on crop rotations and mixed farming systems which produce quantities of dung and farm yard manure. Composting, the accelerated rotting of organic material, is mostly associated with smallholders and allotment keepers. 

Full scale farmers are finding compost a good source of soil nutrient and a wonderful soil  Composting dung and farmyard manure produces something far more beneficial than fresh or rotted dung. Material such as straw, green waste from council collection, waste from vegetable and fruit growing and processing, this and more can be converted into compost. Apart from its value to farmers, there's an increasing commercial market, created by the future ban imposed on the digging and use of pear. In the next two years, the horticultural industry will be searching for a substitute to go in the pots of bedding and other plants. 

Composting is set to become far more main stream that at present.

  • Farmers and advisors are recognising that the condition of soils is deteriorating, both on arable and grassland. Soil is losing organic matter. The contribution of farm yard manure, or cattle slurry is a fraction of what happens when the manure is turned into compost. The elements of phosphate and potash are both made more accessible to plants, and the compost makes a big improvement in soil structure, leading to increased worms and other biological activity. 
  • The rising cost of chemical fertilisers is making compost and other natural sources of plant nutrients increasingly valuable, and therefore popular.
The current issue of Practical Farm Ideas magazine features a home built compost turner - one which would suit a farm with up to 600 acres. The project requires:
  • general workshop skills
  • parts which can be sourced locally for scrap metal prices, the main component is a heavy duty lorry axle
  • a week or less of work
So instead of starting the farm composting with a substantial investment in a machine to turn and aerate the material - its a tedious and poorly done job using a loader and bucket - a turner can be made with a few components and a few days in the workshop. The machine we feature has turned 25,000 cn metres over the last few years and has the ability to turn more. 
As chemical fertilisers become increasingly expensive, farmers who are wanting to reduce costs and save money will be turning to ideas such as compost and other methods to improve the fertility of their land through biology rather than chemistry. 
Building a compost turner in the workshop is the kind of project which will pay huge dividends over the next few years. The home made machine can be replaced by something bigger and more costly when composting experience is gained. 

For more information on the home built machine described in this article, click here

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