Friday, January 11, 2013

Training on Preparation of Organic Fertilizer and Soil Management

Date: 13th-14th November, 2012

The analysis of household survey showed that more than 90 percent of the farmers are not getting sufficient food from agriculture to meet the needs of the family throughout the year. It also found that the agricultural productivity has decreased tremendously in comparision to productivity of thirty years back. The farmers pointed out the water scarcity, insect/pest attack, use of low quality fertilizer, use of extensive chemical fertilizer, soil degradation as the major causes of decrease in crop productivity. They have been adapting to water scarcity through various adaptation strategies but for rest of the causes, farmers are still shrugging off their owes with “what to do”. The farmers in Lubhu were therefore increasingly getting attracted towards organic fertilizers and though in small number, the practice of making compost fertilizer at household level had already been started at the farmers own initiatives. However lack of proper knowledge on the process of preparation of compost and its application techniques was hindering the farmers in expansion of its use. While doing need assessment with the farmers and conversation with the official from agriculture service center in Lubhu, it was found that they are in urgent need of capacity building programme on Preparation, Use and Application of Compost and Vermicompost Fertilizer for Better Soil Management. Though, this type of training was already conducted by Department of Cooperatives, it was limited to only few farmers of Lubhu. It is in this context, Peri-urban Water Security Project underway at Nepal Engineering College considered that organizing a training on preparing organic fertilizer for farmers of Lubhu is timely and important.
The basic objective of organizing this training is to provide the theoretical as well as practical knowledge on preparing organic fertilizer to the farmers of Lubhu VDC and capacitate them in preparing and applying the prepared fertilizer to improve the soil and enhance the agricultural productivity.
A resource person for the training was Dr. Janardhan Khadka, the Senior Soil Scientist from Central Horticulture Center, Kirtipur, Kathmandu and a total of 28 farmers from various Farmer's Committee in Lubhu participated in the training. The 1st day of the training involved imparting basic theoretical knowledge on soil, water and plant and importance of organic fertilizers whereas second day was exclusively allocated for demonstration of the use of compost fertilizer and preparation of organic fertilizer and vermin-composting practically.
Day 1
Session 1
The first day of the training began with a brief description of the peri-urban project and the activities conducted in Lubhu as the pilot intervention site. Following this was the theory classes on the organic fertilizer which started with the presentation on the soil and soil management techniques wherein the role of soil in plant growth was focused in simple terms so as to make the training effective and interesting to the participant farmers. The participatory approach of training helped to bring forward the problems being faced by the farmers, the causes and the knowledge gaps. The interaction also helped to identify possible solutions to the existing and emerging problems of soil degradation through sharing of the field based experiences and experiences from research and practices in different parts of the country and the world. While doing so, the facilitator highlighted on the need of identification of soil type and state of soil such as its pH prior to the soil treatment process. Additionally the farmers also understood the proper technique and appropriate time for the application of Calcium carbonate (Chun), commonly used by farmers to neutralize acidic soil.

Session 2
The second session began with short note on the types of solid waste and need of proper management of solid waste wherein the 3R principle was introduced (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle). Resource person introduced about different techniques of preparation of compost fertilizer on a domestic scale such as bin compost, pile compost, pit compost, chamber compost and vermi-compost. Similarly he elaborated the need of segregation of bio-degradable and non-biodegradable solid waste as primary need of compost preparation and how increasing solid waste with increasing urbanization can be a source of fertilizer through proper composting techniques. He also discussed the aerobic and anaerobic composting techniques and provided a detailed explanation on Size of waste, C:N ratio, Air, Moisture, Temperature, Micro-organisms and  pH range.
During the session, the problems commonly faced by farmer during composting were discussed. The most common problems faced by the farmers were unpleasant odors from piled compost and cowshed for which resource person made multiple suggestions like
  • Do not to put bones or meat scraps into the compost;
  • Cover the compost pile with dry grasses, hay, dry leaves or saw dust and
  • Add lime or calcium to neutralize odors.
The other commonly faced challenge for small-scale backyard composting was finding enough carbon-rich materials to balance the regular input of nitrogen-rich materials to maintain C: N ratio in compost. Resource person explained about green material such as kitchen wastes, fruit and vegetable peelings, grass clippings and other fresh materials as the common sources of Nitrogen and brown material such as straw, branches, stems, dried leaves, peels, bits of wood, bark dust or sawdust as a source of Carbon. He also explained about the role of carbon in providing energy and the fluffy nature of compost and nitrogen in providing protein needed for making enzymes and also emphasized the need of balance between carbon and nitrogen. A healthy compost pile should have much more carbon than nitrogen. A simple rule of thumb is to use one-third green and two-thirds brown materials. This allows oxygen to penetrate and nourish the microorganisms that reside there.
The training focused on aerated composting and explained about the significance of turning over the pile to provide aeration. Similarly the new techniques of no-turn composting techniques through management of aeration mechanisms were also introduced. The aeration is to maintain the appropriate temperature for the proliferation of microbes responsible for the decay of organic wastes. The trainers advised the farmers to cover the compost pits to reduce the loss of moisture and the nutrients and protect from rain to maintain the moisture content in the compost as the excess of water could result into decay of compost.
The training was focused on the use of locally available material for the successful and sustainable use of compost as an alternative to chemical fertilizers. The trainer explained the role of ash in regulating moisture and quantity of its use. The excess use of ash could result into increased pH due to its alkaline nature thus deactivating the microbial activity in compost. Similarly, he described three simple tips to improve the cow-shed quality and the quality of compost from animal dung by managing the base for the animal bed, a canal for urine discharge and collection and a roof for protection of cow-shed from direct sunlight and rain.
The resource person also described about the Effective Micro-organisms (EM) to be used in preparing compost fertilizer. He elaborated the role of EM in proliferation of micro-organisms responsible for composting. Further, he focused on the need of checking the manufacture and expiry date prior to the purchase of EM and advised to collect fresh EM for its effective action. Towards the end of the session, he described about the proper technique of application of compost including complete information on the application time, distance from the plant, techniques to apply different types of plants and season and timing for reapplication. In addition, he also explained about the technique of application of human urine in agricultural crops.

Session 3
The session started with introduction of Vermincompost. Vermicompost is the product of composting using various earthworms to create a heterogeneous mixture of decomposing vegetable or food waste, bedding materials, and vermicast. Vermicast, also called worm castings, worm humus or worm manure, is the end-product of the breakdown of organic matter by an earthworm. These castings have been shown to contain reduced levels of contaminants and a higher saturation of nutrients than organic materials contain before vermicomposting. Containing water-soluble nutrients, vermicompost is an excellent, nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner. This process of producing vermicompost is called vermicomposting.
The facilitator further classified two major types of earthworms. Epigeic types live on the surface in freshly decayed plants and animal residues whereas Endogeic types live underground and eat soil to extract nutrient from decayed organic residues. Earthworms of epigeic category are commonly used in vermicomposting and Eisenia foetida is the species most commonly used. It is a voracious eater, each worm eating 1-7 gram/day and cast 0.8- 6 gram/day.
Following the introduction of vermicomposting was the presentation on the process of vermicomposting, beginning with the process of preparing bed for the vermicompost. Bedding is the living medium and also a source of food for the worms. The bedding should be moist and loose enough to enable the worms to breath and to facilitate aerobic decomposition of the food that is buried in it. He further explained the possibility of vermicomposting in both indoors and outdoors with proper care and management of the appropriate environment keeping away from the direct sunlight and rain. The environment management involved the management of bedding material, organic materials needed to supply necessary nutrients, need of management of moisture and temperature range for the survival of earthworm and the microbial activities in vermicomposting. Eisenia foetida, the most common worms used in composting systems, feed most rapidly at temperatures of 10–32 °C and the temperatures above the range may harm them.
During the training the facilitator explained the possibility of vermicomposting on both small and commercial scale and explained about it increasing popularity at both national and international scale. He suggested to add the fresh organic material based on how rapidly those were being consumed by earthworm and let the material to decompose outside the bed for about two weeks so that the leachate drains out, thus maintain moisture content in vericompost. Further, he requested to not to leave the vermicompost unattended for too long time as there can be excess or deficiency of moisture or any other imbalances in layering of bedding materials. Vermicompost is ready for harvest when it contains few to no scraps of uneaten food or bedding and can be collected when contents look like dark black soil and most worms have migrated to the second and third working lower layers. It takes 3-4 months to get first collection of vermicompost after starting. While collecting vermicompost, he recommended to consider the value of earthworm and suggested to pick out as many worms, eggs and cocoons as possible from prepared fertilizer and returning them to the compost bin. The training also included a session on troubleshooting the possible problems and instructing the points to be considered in selecting the bedding materials, composting material and explained the possible risks and pests, along with the ways to avoid them.
He explained that the vermicompost  is richer in many nutrients than compost fertilizer produced by other composting methods. The value of vermicompost as soil conditioner and plant growth stimulant is due to the concentrated nutrient in worm cast. Unlike other compost, worm castings also contain worm mucus which helps prevent nutrients from washing away with the first watering and holds moisture better than plain soil from the decomposition of organic material. Further, it is rich in microbial life which converts nutrients already present in the soil into plant-available forms. Its recognition with a wide range of applications in homes and commercial gardens was growing.
He also shared about the ongoing research on the process of collection and application of human urine as fertilizer and other hormones such as Rotex and Trichoderma fungus to upgrade the quality of compost. Upon the discussion about the perceived cause of declining application of organic manure, the participating farmers felt the growing deviation from the indigenous farming practice and lack of knowledge transfer from the expert to the farming communities are the major causes of not applying of chemical fertilizers.

Day 2
The second day was for demonstration visit and doing practical in preparing compost fertilizer and vermicompost at Bagbani, Central Horticulture Center, Kirtipur. It was intended to provide the participants an exposure to the activities involved in composting and vermicomposting and providing them hands-on skill in preparing these fertilizers so that the farmers themselves can prepare the fertilizers independently.
The farmers had a short visit in the center premise where they got chance to see all the process of preparing and applying organic fertilizer and arrangement of collection of human urine and its application after disinfection along with several fruit varieties under research. Further, they also visited the waste water treatment plant being constructed to supplement the irrigation water need for the horticultural crops and various other researches undertaken in the centre.
During the practical session for the prepation of compost and vermicompost, the total participants were divided into two groups. The trainer reminded the first days theoretical session to both the groups and asked to prepare compost and vermicompost themselves. With close observation and facilitation of the trainer, all the participants themselves prepared compost fertilizer and vermicompost.
Post lunch, the resource person trained the participants on the use of bone powder and Trichoderma for upgrading the prepared vermicompost. Following this, he explained the process of application of the disinfected human urine for irrigation purpose.
The training ended with a evaluation of the training from the participants perspectives and a short note from the research team and the facilitator encouraging participants to take advantage of the capacity building activities and to consult experts in case of any problem.

Figure: Evaluation of Overall Training by the Participants


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