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Recycle Green Waste with Agricultural Bokashi Compost

Crop residues are a great source for organic matter that can be put back into the soil. However, if land is continuously cropped these residues can get in the way. Some farmers clean their fields and heap everything for on-farm composting or burning. Other farmers may simply disc in the crop residues. Either way, they must be dealt with to avoid future problems.

When residues are composted there is a general process and management plan followed by most farms. We are going to discuss an alternative to traditional, on farm composting. The Bokashi Compost Method, or Bokashi Method, is a relatively fast process that provides not only valuable organic matter to the soil, but also provides the benefits of fermentation by-products (metabolites) to help grow healthy crops and maintain healthy soils on the farm with significantly lower costs.

The agricultural Bokashi Compost Method is one way to recycle green waste. The Bokashi Method is very similar to composting, as much compost aeration involved and the finished materials do not look like common soil. Also, there is no need to monitor compost heat because the materials produce less heat during fermentation. Through less aerating of the compost, the materials are pickled more than they are decomposed. Pickling is a process that preserves the nutrients in the materials, leaving more nutrients available for worms, plants and beneficial fungi when applied to the soil. The lack of turning not only saves a tremendous amount of fuel and labor costs, it also benefits the environment as fewer fossil fuels are burned to make the finished product. This can be applied to a variety of composting including composting manure.

Putting together the materials is done exactly the same as preparing farming compost, but the similarities stop there. Materials are gathered, inoculated, and heaped into piles or windrows. Water is added to reach 30-40% moisture, and, if possible, piles are covered with plastic tarps. This should sound like making silage because it is the exact same process! The piles are left for ferment (anaerobic) for at least two weeks. At this point there should be no compost odor in the pile, and there may be signs of white filamentous fungi growing on the tops of piles. After the fermentation stage of the agricultural Bokashi compost process, the piles are turned once per week for two to four weeks to break down the materials to the desired particle size. Once the desired size is achieved, the materials can be land applied and/or incorporated. This material will make a great mulch as well.