Sunday, 1 May 2016

The Humanure Project : Microorganisms have a Sweet Tooth

Compost is a home for many types of bacteria, actinomycetes and fungi. After all, they conduct the decomposition process. Compost bacteria combine carbon with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide and energy. Some of the energy is used for reproduction and growth and the rest is given off as heat.

Addition of jaggery is helpful to the pile as it significantly affects the growth of microbes and cellulose activity and accelerates the rate of fermentation. Yeast, which is used in baking has enzymes which break down starch molecules to simple sugars. Starch is the most common carbohydrate in the human diet and is contained in many staple foods. The major sources of starch intake worldwide are the cereals (rice, wheat, and maize) and the root vegetables (potatoes and cassava). I am trying to complete the process of composting as soon as possible to validate and set a timeline in which composting can occur. Perhaps, jaggery and yeast are the answer. But that can only be validated by tests and readings. 

Therefore, jaggery mixed with water (sheera) and yeast solution was added to the piles and they were stirred after a long time. They were stirred last time on 14 April 2016 as has been documented here.

 

Jaggery solution : 100 g of jaggery (ground) and 300 g of water (mind you grams not mL)
Yeast solution : 8 pinches of yeast granules and 50 g of water



Pour :  100 g of the jaggery solution (sheera) was poured into each of the piles. 



Stir : Using a fork like structure that has been made of mild steel, the piles were turned. Succeeding this, 50g of yeast solution was poured equally thus each pile got about 17 g of it.



Measure : The temperature of the piles are being measured continuously using a temperature probe.

Edit 1: So here is the table which shows the temperature measurements of the 3 buckets.

            compost bucket prepared on : 5 April 2016
            The pile was left for a few days to heat up and give appropriate readings

Outside Temp.
Date
Time
Leaves
Sawdust
Grass
Remarks

12/4

37.1
35.4
33.2
37.1
37.7
33.2
35.6
35.3
33.8


14/4

36.8
38.2
-
38.5
40.0
39.6
36.8
38.1
37.1


16/4

38.5
38.6
37.0
37.4
39.8
39.5
36.9
38.1
37.3
Bucket stirred

18/4

36.3
36.9
34.8
36.0
37.3
37.3
35.1
35.6
34.9


22/4

33.5
32.5
30.0
33.5
34.5
33.5
33.0
32.3
30.5


23/4
midnight
35.8
34.8
33.0
34.6
35.9
35.5
34.7
34.3
33.0


25/4
8:30 - 9pm
34.8
34.1
-
34.0
34.7
34.2
33.7
34.1
32.9


26/4
8:30 - 9pm
34.5
34.5
-
33.1
34.3
34.3
33.3
33.6
-


28/4
8:30 - 9pm
38.9
38.6
-
38.2
39.1
38.9
37.9
38.1
-

37.3 deg
29/4
7:00 pm
40.5
40.1
-
38.8
40.3
40.6
39.3
40.3
-

35.6 deg
30/4
4:00 pm
38.6
39.1
-
37.1
37.9
39.1
37.0
38.8
-
Yeast and
 jaggery added
37.6 deg
30/4
7:30 pm
38.9
39.6
-
38.1
39.4
40.1
38.6
39.2
-

32.6 deg
30/4
12:10 am
37.2
36.7
-
36.9
38.1
38.6
36.3
36.5
-

40.3 deg
01/5
6:00 pm
39.8
41.6
-
38.5
39.8
42.5
39.1
40.8
-
Highest temp 
till date

Parameters :

a) Bucket temperatures rise and fall like a mountain and trough. This is due to the formation of colonies of saprophytes. When they are active, temperature = High and when they die, temperature = Low. A temperature indicator with marked levels can indicate whether the temperatures achieved are suitable or not.

b) Volume of the bucket is directly proportional to time (which was not measured). A ark in the level indicator can indicate whether the composting process is complete or not.

Special thanks to Chandan Murthy for the heads up about adding jaggery and Shrikant Ghode for documentation. 

References :
The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins
Since this book is so good,some lines have been picked up directly and used here.