Organic Fertilizer

Organic Fertilizer (Logo)Balancing Carbon and Nitrogen (Header)

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Producing Excellent Organic Fertilizer

All tissues plant and animal comprise Carbon and Nitrogen in varying ratios. Microorganisms have carbon as their basic building unit and also an energy source. Nitrogen is the building block for proteins, which also make the DNA and RNA, the genetic materials responsible for constructing cell structures and eventually, the entire organism. So it's no wonder that compost shall have the C and N in it. The question is: In what ratios and why?

It is organic material that decomposes in a compost pile and balancing the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio is the trick behind speeding it up; compost accelerators et al are just gimmicks that make mountains out of molehills. The brown "carbonaceous" materials are dry whilst the fresh and moist "green" materials are nitrogen-rich. However, fresh organic plant material is also around 40% carbon, whereas dry materials range between 40 and 50 percent and sloppy or wet materials a max of 20.

Finding The Right Balance Between Carbon And Nitrogen

Carbon-to-Nitrogen Ratio determines the quality of the organic fertilizer Organic fertilizer

The C/N balance (compost lingo) makes all the difference and it varies because nitrogen content differs, not carbon. (Note: Therefore, the most important factor in estimating the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio of plant or food waste is how much water is present).

But then again, composting is like a big-bore handgun; needs to be handled carefully else you just might make the whole place reeking Hell (take the lid out to see what is been discussed)! Anyone been in the chemistry lab might remember the deadly duo - hydrogen sulfide and ammonia; the garbage mix - on its way to become the dark, rich and earthy compost - smells a bit more potent than that. Making the best organic fertilizer has its pains.

Now, back to carbon and nitrogen. A compost pile thrives on microorganisms, which require a correct proportion of carbon against nitrogen for producing energy and protein. Setting the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio right, more fertile compost can be produced in lesser time and that too with less foul an odor. 25 parts (no way should it exceed 30) of carbon to just one part of nitrogen is the ideal ratio to maintain; it's the same ratio the microorganisms digesting the compost also thrive on. It makes for them a balanced diet; excess carbon brings decomposition to a halt while excess nitrogen brings on the stink by forming ammonia.

The Carbon-To-Nitrogen Ratio Determines The Quality Of The Organic Fertilizer

Carbon sourced from fresh organic materials is considered the best since it converts the best into soil humus. Sufficient nitrogen must be present for that; the remaining, extra 65% - 70% carbon escapes into the atmosphere as CO2 formed by microbial respiration. Now, that's definitely encouraging the greenhouse effect, but in almost no amount compared to composts occurring in nature; in forests and rangeland, for example. But the result is enough to wash down the feel of guilt; the humus thus formed will have roundabout 10:1 C/N ratio. This is the optimum ratio for soil. The organic matter stays ten carbons to nitrogen. Now think that backwards; it's 50 parts of carbon to 5 parts of nitrogen.

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The C/N ratio determines what quality level your organic fertilizer will have