It is becoming extremely expensive to buy artificial manure for my farm. I, for example, ordered for chicken droppings, but three months later, I have not got them. Are there cheaper ways of processing manure on the farm?
Answer: You can ably easily process your manure at home. Various types of vegetative materials and farm waste can be used, such as maize stovers, soybean and bean stovers, finger millet, banana peelings, rice and sorghum straws, Sweet potato vines, cassava or potato peelings, dry and green grass, animal and poultry wastes or slurry/kitchen waste.
- Dig a pit 45cm deep (square or rectangular in shape). Put the soil on one side. Put four poles (2m long) one for each corner of the pit. The poles are supposed to hold the pit in shape.
- Chop the available materials in small pieces and put the first layer. You can chop using a panga.
- Pile up to 45cm deep, then sprinkle 10 litres of water.
- Add a second layer of dry vegetation of cuttings to about 20cm thick and sprinkle water, then put a third layer of animal or poultry waste or slurry. This provides micro-organisms that are essential for decomposition.
- Sprinkle ash, at least 5kg as it contains essential minerals. You can then add the fourth layer (about 20cm thick) consisting of green materials from leguminous trees such as calliandra, leucaena, tithonia, etc, freshly harvested.
- Sprinkle a little top soil, up to 5cm thick. The soil contains bacteria, which helps in decomposition.
- Repeat the placement of layers as in the steps above, starting with dry vegetation, then animal or poultry wastes/slurry, ash, green vegetation and topsoil.
- Sprinkle water on every layer. The final pile should be 1.5 to 2m high, with vertical sides and a flat top. To complete the pile, cover with a layer of 10cm thick of topsoil.
- Finally, cover the compost pile with dry vegetation, such as banana leaves, to reduce moisture loss through evaporation.
Decomposition starts three days after pile formation. Drive a long, pointed stick at an angle to check the decomposition. The stick should be left in the pile and only removed once a week. When you pull out the stick from the pile, it should be warm and moist, but not wet.
This confirms that decomposition is in progress. A cold stick is an indication that there is no decomposition.
- Sprinkle 20 litres of water on the pile every three days during dry spells.
- After two to three weeks, turn the pile. Compost is ready after six to nine weeks, depending on the material used.
- Ready compost should have a fresh soil smell and should not contain grass, leaves, animal or poultry waste.
Store compost by covering it with polythene or banana leaves or under a roof.
Compost can be stored for three to six months. This pit can give you as much as 100kg of manure. One can use it to mix soil for setting up a nursery bed or use at least one spade in a banana pit, for example, before planting.