Korean Natural Farming: Mixed Compost

Korean Natural Farming: Mixed Compost
Source: Rooftop Ecology.

This is taken from the Korean Natural Farming Handbook p.149-153

What is MC?

Mixed compost is a very useful Natural Farming input. It is made by mixing animal and vegetable organic matter together. Agricultural byproducts, forest leaf molds, livestock and human excretions, rice bran, rice husk and sesame dregs (what remains after pressing the oil of out sesame seeds) can all be MC ingredients. Aside from this you add Fermented Plant Juice (FPJ) and Fish Amino Acid (FAA) for moisture control.  Adding Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) and yeast will improve the quality of the MC you produce.  MC is similar to ordinary compost (barnyard manure) but its quality is completely different.

MC must be mixed with soil from both from both pristine mountains and from your farm.  Soil must be added to compost because it holds the nutrients thus preventing their loss.  It also prevents offensive odors (which is a sure sign that nutrients are escaping into the atmosphere). The reason you should collect soil from mountains in the wild is that mountain soil is filled with minerals and tough, resilient microorganisms. Adding your field’s soil will allow mountain and field microorganisms to develop an affinity with each other- you would not want to unleash enemy microrganisms into your fields.

You should note that with regards to organic fertilizer applying unfermented ‘fresh’ organic matter directly to the field, i.e rice bran, sesame dregs, animal faeces, food waste etc,  can be harmful for four reasons.

First, as these substances decompose they consume oxygen and in so doing starve the soil.

Second, as these substances decompose they emit ammonia or methane, which will harm the crop in the field. The problem is even more serious in greenhouses.

Third, these substances are regarded as food by pests, which will then feed on your plants.

Fourth, these substances will not have a fertilizing effect immediately upon application, but in the later stages of plant growth when you do not want it.

Effects of MC

  • Promotes absorption of micronutrients:  Countless diverse microrganisms exist in MC because you use powerful indigenous microorganisms (IMO). A single cell of a single microorganism contains hundreds of enzymes and all sorts of organic compounds. When a micronutrient, such as iron,  is bonded with an organic compound its activity is greatly increased. According to research when iron is combined with 4 pyrroles rings its activation level is increased 1000 times.

[Note from Ian: The last sentence is difficult tor the layman, myself included to understand. What I think it is saying is that iron in the soil in pure mineral form is difficult for plants to uptake, but when iron is combined with an organic compound it is two orders of magnitude (i.e. a thousand times) easier for plants to uptake.  Interestingly, a lot of GMO research is looking into how to make plants more tolerant of low levels of specific micro nutrients.  If making the soil more biologically active can release more of these micronutrients then this would seem to be easier than changing the plant.]

  • Promotes plant hormone effectiveness: MC is rich with hormones. MC ingredients such as the dregs of rape seed and sesame as well as rice bran are rich in hormones. Most hormones are formed in the process of fermentation, for example auxin is produced by yeast and filamentous fungus, with gibberellin being produced by red fungus and cytokinin by germs and yeast. The hormone cytokinin promotes leaf/branch growth, lateral bud growth, cell division, embryo and seed formation, flower bud formation, germination and prevents ageing.
  • Provides vitamins: Vitamins are as critical to plants as they are to humans. Vitamins function like a catalyst that facilitates the action of other nutrients. MC is endowed with abundant vitamins, even more when supplemented with FPJ, FAA and other NF inputs.

How to make MC:

  1. Prepare IMO4 and organic matter in a 1:10 ratio. The ingredients of the organic matter will likely differ with each batch.  The best season for production is autumn and winter. In the northern hemisphere October is the ideal month. During cold winters greenhouses provide sufficient heat for your purposes.
  2. Mix the ingredients under a roof or indoors in order to protect the ingredients from rainfall or direct sunshine. Mix the materials atop soil, not concrete. The materials pile should be at least 500kg since it is difficult for a smaller mass to retain sufficient heat to allow fermentation.
  3. Spread the materials to a height of 40cm when hot and 80cm when cold. This is to let oxygen get into the material and to control the temperature.
  4. Adjust moisture levels to 60% with diluted  (about 500 times) FPJ, FAA, OHN, NMA or other inputs. Adding powdered oyster, crab, shrimp or egg shells is a very good idea. The matter should be slightly wet to the hand and barely maintain shape when squeezed.
  5. Cover with a rice straw mat.
  6. When the temperature reaches 50 degrees use a shovel or a machine to turn the material over. Mixing inside to out will lower the temperature and allow better aeration.  Turn for the first time on the second day, the second time on day 5 or 6, and for a third time on day 8-10.
  7. Control moisture level when necessary.
  8. After about 20 days you will have MC that is ready to use. A well made MC has a sweet smell.  If it stinks then deterioration rather than fermentation has occurred. In the worst case scenario, for example if you did not turn the material well or watered the material too heavily, you will even have maggots.
  9. Put MC in sacks or plastic containers for storage. You can store your MC in cool shade for up to a year.

The three stages of MC

Stage One (filamentous fungus and aspergillus oryzae):

The filamentous bacteria produces sugar. It thrives in cool, low moisture acidic conditions. Bacteria found in stage 2 of the process like hot and humid conditions, which means that if you want a thorough stage one you will make the MC in cool weather.

Stage 2  (bacteria, bacillus lichenformis) :

Bacillus lichenformis that were dormant in straw begin feeding on the sugar produced by filamentous fungus. The digest protein and produce amino acids.

Stage 3 (lactic acid bacteria, yeast):

After the temperature drops below 50 degrees centigrade, lactic acid bacteria starts to proliferate. Yeast follows. They work together to produce/synthesize amino acids, organic acids and vitamins.

Ingredients for MC

You should always mix more than one organic matter for making MC.  It is very interesting that if you are making MC from rice bran predominantly but add a small amount of fish trash, that the whole end product (MC) will be almost as high quality as fish trash MC. This is particularly so if you mature the MC for 1-2 months.

Adding chemical fertilizer to MC boosts the fertilizer’s performance. MC’s fermentation also rids/neutralizes harmful substances in the chemical fertilizer. Then there is the added benefit that outlays on fertilizer are reduced.

Organic matter that we would recommend as inputs when making MC are rice bran and husk, agricultural byproducts, oil dregs, bean/sesame/rape dregs, fish trash, seaweed, animal intestines/bone/blood powder, wild herbs, leaf moulds, livestock, human excretions, crab/oyster/shrimp/egg shells, etc. Carefully measure the nutrients of each ingredient and mix the best formula.

When you add FPJ to the ingredients we recommend that you use FPJ made from the crop that you will apply the MC to.

6. How to use MC

  • Apply MC when there is no sun.  UV light in sunshine is lethal to micro-organisms therefore you should apply the MC on a cloudy day or late in the afternoon.
  • Apply MC partially. Is it better to apply MC to all parts of the field or here and there. Partial application allows micro-organisms to better survive in the soil, where they are being attacked by local field micro-organisms. We recommend that you apply MC here and there on the fields, on top of the soil where the roots will be spreading.
  • Using MC liquid fertilizer: You can put the MC in a cloth, immerse it in water and aerate it. Adding FPJ, LAB etc is even better. When you spray this on leaves you should do it in the evening or at night. It is also better to spray on the back of leaves rather than the front.

[Note from Ian: If you are interested in using liquid fertilizer you should type  ‘actively aerated compost teas’ into your browser]