The Superpowers of Compost
Composting is the use and manipulation of the natural act of decay to convert what we consider garbage into beneficial soil and fertilizer. Compost creates soil conditions ideal for healthy plant growth. It contains a full spectrum of essential plant nutrients, often absent in synthetic fertilizers. It releases the nutrients slowly – over months or years, unlike synthetic fertilizers, which also makes for less nutrient run-off, polluting waterways. Only a 5% increase in organic material quadruples soils water holding capacity. Compost also contains beneficial microorganisms that protect plants from diseases and pests. It filters and cleans polluted waters and degrades certain pollutants. 67 million pounds of pesticides and 3 million tons of fertilizers are used just on lawns every year in the USA. If we all composted, we could eliminate these toxins, climate change would slow, the birds would come back and we would be healthier.
The composting process and the use of mature compost can be used to destroy industrial wastes including hydrocarbons, toxic metals, toxic organic compounds, and some pesticides. Mature compost also can control plant diseases.
The process goes through temperature ranges from the mesophilic up to the thermophilic range (50°C and higher) with different bacteria, fungi and actinomycetes working in the different temperature ranges. The most chemical changes occur during the thermophilic stage. The high organic content and minerals makes the resulting compost a very good absorber of both organic and inorganic chemicals. Studies have found disease-bearing organisms do not survive the heat of compost piles and the antibiosis – a balanced population of microorganisms.
"The use of compost for disease suppression involves a remarkably complicated set of interactions among various microorganisms, chemical constituents of composted materials, and plant tissues." The study of these processies is still young. The environmental conditions of composting are different enough from normal natural living conditions, that we may find they have something like superpowers over our pests and diseases.
by Marnie Vyff owner of Mountain Lakes Organic Co-op, LLC