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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 manage soil to prevent insects and pests

Followers of organic farming have for long promoted the idea that the likelihood of pest outbreaks is reduced if we practice organic farming, which includes establishing and maintaining healthy soil. Recent researches show that plant resistance to insects and diseases is linked to optimal, chemical, physical and biological properties of soil.

In farming, improvement of soil fertility is achieved through rotations, cover cropping and the application of animal and plant materials. Below are some of the main elements that can help reduce pest issues.

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Too Much Nitrogen

Vigorous, healthy plants that grow quickly are in a position to withstand pest damage.\However, over-fertilizing crops can actually increase pest problems. Research has shown that increasing soluble nitrogen levels in plants can decrease their resistance to pests, resulting in higher pest density and crop damage. For example, increased nitrogen fertilizer rates have been associated with large increases in numbers of aphids and mites.

Soil Food Web

Soils that are healthy and rich in organic matter and with a biologically diverse food web support plant health and nutrition better than soils low in organic matter and soil microbial diversity. In addition to supporting vigorous growth of plants better able to tolerate pest damage, healthy soils also contain many natural enemies of insect pests, including insect predators, pathogenic fungi, and insect-parasitic nematodes.

Different Organisms in soil

Soil and plant health are affected by soil’s physical condition, water holding capacity, level of compaction and drainage. The chemical aspects of soils (pH, salt content, availability of nutrients, etc.) can affect crop health and pest susceptibility.

There are several ways of improving soil health. In general, general, the focus should be on increasing soil organic matter to improve soil structure and to provide food for soil microbes that in turn make nutrients available to plants. Farmers should always rotate with cover and green manure crops in order to increase soil organic matter. Manure and compost can also be added to supply organic matter and to provide supplemental nutrients.

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Cultivation and tillage can be beneficial because it disrupts the life cycle of insect pests and can expose pests to predators and the elements. However, excessive tillage can accelerate the decomposition of soil organic matter and deplete the food source that soil microorganisms depend on, decreasing their ability to disrupt pests. Excessive and untimely tillage can also contribute to soil erosion.


Whether organic or synthetic, mulches, can help reduce insect pest problems. Plastic mulch is often used to speed early season crop growth that makes plants better able to tolerate insect feeding. Reflective mulch repels thrips and aphids and can reduce the incidence of insect transmitted virus diseases in vegetable crops.

Research has shown that straw mulch can suppress early season pests activity by creating a micro-environment that increases the number of predators like ground beetles, lady beetles, and lacewings. Mulching with straw can also reduce the pests ability to locate  plants.

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Health measures can be used to help prevent the introduction of pests onto the farm, to prevent the movement of pests within the farm, and to remove overwintering or breeding sites for pests on the farm. Here is what you should do to ensure sanitation is maintained.

  • Always try and plant pest-free plants; inspect plants brought onto the farm to prevent the introduction of pests.
  • Infested plants should be removed and composted, buried, or otherwise destroyed as soon as possible.
  • Removal of weeds and natural vegetation bordering crops may eliminate alternate hosts for some insect pests. Note that these areas may also harbor natural enemies; therefore, the farmer must carefully assess the potential threat from pest insects in these areas before mowing or removing any plants.
  • When working in an infested area, clean equipment and clothes before going to another area of the farm. Pests such as whiteflies and spider mites can be carried on workers’ clothes and spread to new areas.
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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.

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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.

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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)