Compost is best defined as a mixture of various organic substances (materials), in which the natural decaying of organic matter occurs through the biological process wherein microorganisms convert organic material into a nutrient rich resource.
Today, composting is a technique utilized to accelerate the natural decaying process. The main value of compost as well as a much-needed part of a productive soil complex, is to replenish soil organic matter content. As a soil amendment, compost has a positive, yet low-level effect on soil nutrient levels because nitrogen released by commercial fertilizers is typically immediately available but exhausted in the year, while compost generated nitrogen is slowly released over years. Commercial fertilizers are ideally made up of salts that kill off beneficial microbes and other living organisms in your soil food web. Compost is an organic method of replenishing the nutrients in your soil as well as providing beneficial bacteria and fungi that all play a role in having a healthy fertile soil.
Bobcat Blend compost is used in the Food For Thought & living library horticulture gardens around the agriculture building, community gardens throughout San Marcos, Texas State Student Sustainable Farm, along with student/staff/alumni that support our program.
Bobcat Blend Composting focuses on capturing food waste from the dinning halls on campus including Jones, Commons, Harris, The Den, LBJ Student Center along with Lampasses Coffee shop and the Nutrition lab. We also capture grass clippings from the sports fields through out the University.
Research on invasive plant species is one of the main factors that keeps our program running. We have successefully killed the weed seeds from various invasive plants such as Hydrilla verticillata, Water Hyacinth (E. crassipes), Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiotes). We have collected our plant species from the San Marcos river including Aquarena Spring Lake and the Rio Grande.
Bobcat Blend is currently doing a research study on composting Elephant Ears (Colocasia esculentum) which was harvested from Aquarena Spring Lake, and Seaweed (Sargassum) from Corpus Christi.
When dealing with the processes of recycling organic matter you need to have both your greens and your browns. The greens will be the food waste and plant matter which are your Nitrogen source. The Carbon source are your browns, such as your shredded wood, dry grass clippings and leaves.
The combination of the correct carbon to nitrogen ratio may vary depending on the materials being used. The standard ratio is 30:2, 30 being the Carbon browns and 2 being the Nitrogen greens.
Aside from the C:N ratios you must have oxygen for oxidizing the carbon which triggers the decompostion of organic matter. H2O is essenrtial in the correct amounts needed to maintain activity in the compost pile. How ever if you provide conditions to where there is to much H2O you create anarobic conditions which means you have killed your beneficial microbes that are the main ingredient in the process of decompostion.
By providing the right amount of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and H2O you create the perfect environment for the microorganisms to thrive in, which puts them on the top of the ingredient list for the process of decompostion. Without microorganisms you create a sterile environment that makes it impossible to create a final product of compost. Common microorganisms that are in compost piles consist of bacteria, actinomycetes, fungi, molds, yeast, protozoa, and rotifers.
The goal is to get the compost pile to reach temperatures that range between 135-160 degrees fahrenheit to fully decompose organic matter. If temperatures are to low decomposition will not occur, if temperatures exceed 160 degrees then you have created a sterile environment along with harzardous conditions that could start fires.
With proper monituring of piles and constant evaluation of temperatures along with moisture and oxygen levels you produce compost at a more consistant level. The ideal finished compost resembles a dark brown or black crumbly texture that is moist to the touch but has no odors besides the smell of rich earth. Not all compost is fully decomposed and most people prefer different levels of decomposition because they are aware that the minute twigs, straw, hay and what not will decay in their yard garden with time and continue to exchange nutrients needed for vital plant growth. Keep in mind if you intend to use compost that is not fully decomposed you should not use it to start seeds of any sort whether it is flowering plant or edibles; because the delicate roots may come in contact with decomposing material that can cause harm to your plants by introducing disease and taking nutrients away.
Compost Connection to Nutrition
The human health requires 23 elements that come from healthy soil. In order for humans to optain these elements along with carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen they must first be converted by plants to create foods that contain amino acids, carbohydrates, essential fats, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and fiber. The absent of only one of these 23 elements will eventually lead to health problems in our bodies.
The incorporation of nutrient rich compost in soils allows plants to maximize the absorbtion of these 23 minerals and nutrients to boost the nutrients of food. As we consume these nutrients, our bodies use thousands of enzymes to drive our human engine of metabolism and all the vital functions that keeps us alive. In other words, when you have healthy soil, you get healthy plants which leads to healthy people!
Benefits of Composting at Texas State University
Bobcat Blend has reduced the amount of garbage being sent into the mainstream landfills by nearly 50%. Before Bobcat Blend food pick ups from the dining halls; waste would be picked up everyweek if not more. Now landfill pick ups are only every other week.
Bobcat Blend is able to create natural fertilizers without the use of synthetic chemicals and non organic methods. The use of rich compost in the landscapes around campus reduces the amount of water and irrigation needed because of compost's great ability to retain moisture within the soil. Nutrients return to the soil such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potasium along with many other trace minerals.
In May of 2012 Bobcat Blend recieved the Pollution Pervention award from TCEQ (Texas Comission on Environmental Quality). Bobcat Blend is proud that we are doing our part to conserve earth's environment and by protecting and conserving our natural resources in San marcos like Aquarenea Spring Lake.