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Benefits of Cow Manure Fertilizer and how to compost it

Kenya is an agricultural hub and the use of cow manure in the Shamba is a common thing in the rural areas. This type of fertilizer is not as rich in nitrogen compared to other types, however when fresh it contains high levels of ammonia which can burn plants if applied when fresh. On the other hand, composted cow manure can provide many benefits to the garden.

Components of cow dung manure

Cow dung/cattle manure is basically made of digested grass and grain. Cow dung contains high concentrations of organic materials that are rich in nutrients. It contains about 3 percent nitrogen, 2 percent phosphorus, and 1 percent potassium (3-2-1 NPK). Additionally, cow dung contains high levels of ammonia and possibly dangerous pathogens. Consequently, it is usually recommended that it be composted before using it as a form of fertilizer.

In addition, cow manure contains high levels of ammonia and potentially dangerous pathogens. For this reason, it’s usually recommended that it be aged or composted prior to its use as cow manure fertilizer.

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Advantages of Cow Manure Compost

Cow dung manure has many benefits. Apart from eliminating harmful ammonia gas and pathogens such as E. coli, composted cow manure removes weed seeds and adds generous amounts of organic matter to farmer’s soil. By mixing this compost into the soil, you can improve its moisture-holding capacity. This allows you to water less frequently, as the roots of plants can use the additional water and nutrients whenever needed. In addition, cow dung compost manure will enhance aeration, as well as help break up compacted soils. Composted cow manure also contains beneficial bacteria, which convert nutrients into easily accessible forms, so they can be slowly released without burning tender plant roots. Composting cow manure also produces about a third less greenhouse gases, making it environmentally friendly.

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How to compost cow dung into manure

Composted cow manure fertilizer makes an excellent growing medium for garden plants. When turned into compost and fed to plants and vegetables, cow manure becomes a nutrient-rich fertilizer. It can be mixed into the soil or used as top dressing. Most composting bins or piles are located within easy reach of the garden. Heavy manures, like that of cows, should be mixed with lighter materials, such as straw or hay, in addition to the usual organic substances from vegetable matter, garden debris, etc. Small amounts of lime or ash may also be added.

A crucial consideration when making compost manure is the size of your pile. If the pile is too small, it will not provide enough heat required for the composting process. On the other hand, if the pile is too big it may not get enough air. Therefore, it is necessary to keep on turning your pile every now and then. Composted cow manure adds momentous amounts of organic material to the soil. You can improve the overall health of your soil if you add cow manure fertilizer that in turn will help you produce healthy, vigorous plants.

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How To Make Your Own Compost Manure And Its Benefits

Compost manure as widely known is normally animal waste and rotten plant. Composting produces an organic fertiliser high in plant nutrients which improves soil physical characteristics, reduces organic waste on the farm and eliminates pathogens.

According to experts, the proportion of farmers in Kenya using inorganic fertiliser for maize planting has increased. However, the quantity applied has increased slightly from 56kg per acre  to 59kg per acre. This low usage of fertiliser is largely due to high costs. Compost manure is, therefore, a cheaper alternative.

Read: Soil Testing: How To Interpret And Its Importance

How compositing happens

Effective composting occurs when you create conditions that support the growth of tiny living creatures in the soil called micro-organisms. These are bacteria and fungi, only seen when using a microscope. These micro-organisms are needed to breakdown the plant and animal waste material. They produce heat during the breakdown of plant and animal waste.

After a few days, the prepared compost heap will get hot and when opened up can release steam. As the waste materials decompose, they release nutrients in forms that can be used by crops.

Procedure of Compositing

Crop residues and organic household wastes are thrown into pits and left to decompose for three to four months, after which the compost is ready for use. The waste materials are heaped under a tree shade and left to decompose. In both methods, compost is produced, but the quality is low. Purposeful methods can, however, be employed to produce high quality compost that can enable a farmer increase crop yields without using expensive inorganic fertiliser. This type of manure is called enriched compost.

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Advantages Of Enriched Compost

  • Cheap because it is derived from crop residues, animal manure, garden weeds, grass, hedge cuttings, kitchen and household waste.
  • Nutrients immediately available as the plant absorbs them directly without the need for further breakdown.
  • Increased crop yields.
  • Water holding capacity of the soil is increased hence supporting crops adequately.
  • In situations where the texture of the soil is not conducive to root penetration, it improves it so that roots grow better to spread and search for more soil nutrients.
  • It helps in release of nutrients gradually, enabling the following year’s crop to benefit from their presence unlike the inorganic fertiliser that lasts only a season.
  • It increases the soil organic matter content that is good for crops and the environment in general.
  • Because weeds can also be composited, compost manure reduces weed density in farms since weed seeds are destroyed during the process of composting by the heat produced.
  • Manure reduces environmental pollution associated with inorganic fertiliser use.

Read: The work of Agricultural Engineer in Kenya

Basic Requirements of Making Compost Manure

  • Panga, sticks, watering can and fork or spade.
  • Space of 2.5m long by 2m wide for the heap and a similar portion to turn the material. The more the material available, the more space one requires.
  • Crop residues from cereals (maize, sorghum, millet, wheat) and legumes (bean, cowpea, groundnut and green gram).
  • Any other types of waste plant material. Use of green manures such as tithonia (Mexican sunflower), glyricidia, leucaena, sesbania, crotalaria and lantana leaves increase the compost nitrogen content.

Process of Compositing

  • Select a location close to where you want to use the compost to reduce the strain of transporting it. The place should be sheltered from wind, rain, sun and runoff. A compost pile must not get either dry or wet.
  • The compost heap can be constructed above or below the ground. If constructed above the ground, scrub the grass and loosen the top few centimetres of soil with a jembe. In a pit, sprinkle top soil at the bottom to introduce micro-organisms.
  • Build the compost pile by beginning with a bottom layer of bigger sized materials such as maize stalks of about 15cm long.
  • Add another layer of dry vegetation, hedge cuttings or grass of about 15cm. Sprinkle top soil and add water to moisten the whole layer.

You can Also use manure from animal waste as it is cheap and readily available especially if you are practicing zero grazing.

Courtesy of (Daily Nation)

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Don’t Just Add Fertilizer Know Its Components

According to agricultural experts, farmers ought to learn the components used in fertilisers and if they are beneficial to their soils. Its noted that many farmers just buy fertilisers without knowing what their soils need, defeating the purpose of using them.

The experts have noted that there was improved logistical infrastructure for inputs and outputs in Africa, but more needed to be done.

Kenya is one of the countries that import fertiliser from different companies, with National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) being one of the main buyers.

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Fertilizer analysis

Understanding the fertilizer analysis is essential when choosing the right fertilizer to purchase and apply.

Fertilizers, such as 10-20-10, are identified on their package by their chemical analysis.
The three numbers on the bag or container refer to the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium components in the fertilizer.
Chemical fertilizers for the home garden are available in two forms. The granular form is sprinkled on the soil and worked in with a tiller or hand tool. Water soluble types are mixed with water and the feeding is accomplished by sprinkling onto the leaves of the plant (foliar feeding) or used as part of the watering process, in which the plant takes in the nutrients systemically (through the roots).

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Fertilizer components and what each does for your plants

  • The first number in a fertilizer formula is the nitrogen content. Nitrogen is used by plants for producing leaf growth and greener, lusher leaves.
  • The second number in a fertilizer formula is the phosphorus content. Phosphorus is used by plant to increase fruit development and to produce a strong root system.
  • The third number in a fertilizer formula is the potassium (potash) content. Potassium is used by plants for flower color and size. It is also important to the strength of the plant.

Read: The work of Agricultural Engineer in Kenya

Using Fertilizers Properly

The easiest way to explain this would be that a 100# bag of 10-20-10 converted to component weight would equal

  • 25# of nitrogen,
  • 50# of phosphate, and
  • 25# of potash.

Before applying fertilizer to the garden, it is best to test your soil (or have it tested by sending a sample to http://oxfarm.co.ke/ .
These soil tests will tell you the level of nutrients that are already in the soil, as well as the acidity (pH) of the soil. Adjusting the pH of your soil is essential, because some nutrients may become unavailable to your plants if the soil pH is above or below a certain range.
If your test is done by us, the test results will be much more detailed, and will also provide our recommendations for any needed additions of lime and fertilizer to your soil.
The timing of the application of fertilizers is very important. Too much fertilizer, or applying it at the wrong time can lead to an overabundance of foliage, delayed flowering, leaf and root burn, or even plant death due to excess fertilizer!

Always read the manual of any garden product.