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Let me start off by saying that I love worms. (Earthworms, not the intestinal variety)
Worms are amazing creatures largely misunderstood by modern man. A person might notice one or two after a heavy rain flitting around in a puddle on the sidewalk. But for the most part they’re out of sight and out of mind. Yet these grand decomposers are responsible for turning much of the nitrogenous and carbon waste littered around the world back into nice healthy soil. The soil we depend on for our very lives in fact. (We gotta eat, you know. And plants need that healthy soil to provide food for us.)
But worms are not the only organisms capable of changing basic nutrients back into soil. There are many other types of microorganisms which can do the same job given the right conditions. (dark moist environment and the right mix of nitrogen and carbon foods) This process is called composting. When you use worms to do the same thing it is called vermicomposting. Both techniques work well and produce good results. However, the results of these processes have not been very well measured or evaluated in the past.
The art of composting is quite ancient, however a man named Sir Albert Howard published the first modern studies of the phenomenon in the 1940s.
“Howard has been called the father of modern composting, for his refinement of a traditional Indian composting system into what is now known as the Indore method. He went on to document and develop organic farming techniques, and spread his knowledge through the UK-based Soil Association, and the Rodale Institute in the US. His 1940 book, An Agricultural Testament, is a classic organic farming text. It was his first book aimed at the general public, and is his best popularly known work. However his 1931 book The Waste Products of Agriculture, based on 26 years of studying improved crop production in Indian smallholdings, is considered by some as his most important scientific publication. His 1945 book Farming and Gardening for Health or Disease was also intended for a general audience, and was republished in 1947 as The Soil and Health: A Study of Organic Agriculture. Howard’s work influenced and inspired many farmers and agricultural scientists who furthered the organic movement, including Lady Eve Balfour (the Haughley Experiment,The Living Soil) and J.I. Rodale (Rodale Institute).”
Since his work was published all those years ago, many things have been written and further studies conducted on the usefulness of composting. But most of the work has been carried out by universities and large corporations. And the studies are not widely known as a result.
Following on the footsteps of the open source thinkers who have preceded me, I would like to propose a worldwide open source internet based compost research project. Anyone who composts can take part and the data will be used to redefine the layman science behind compost creation and potential uses. (Catchy title to follow shortly) Stay tuned for the next installment as I gear up the quest and try to figure out how the process will work.
Next time: Seriously? Why composting?
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