The Unbelievable Properties of a Natural Fertiliser

Because of our overuse of chemicals, pesticides and bad water management, our soils are growing weaker and unable to grow crops even at the same level that we grew them 10 years ago. And one of India’s biggest assets is cow dung, writes maneka gandhi COW dung is one of India’s treasures. We could have the richest, healthiest soils in the world and grow twice as much as we do. Our population is growing and by the time I would have finished writing this article, there will be 30,000 more babies in India. But because of our overuse of chemicals, pesticides and bad water management, our soils are growing weaker and unable to grow crops even at the same level that we grew them 10 years ago. This is a recipe for total disaster. What of the future? Look at the prices of grain and vegetables — if there was enough, would prices be going up?

We need to do a quick re-evaluation of how to grow our crops. One of our biggest assets is cow dung and this, again, is on the decline because thousands of cattle are going to slaughter every day. From being a free asset, it now sells for six rupees a kilogram.

Cow dung consists of three basic elements critical to plant health: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Nitrogen allows plants to produce the proteins needed to build living tissue for green stems, strong roots and lots of leaves. Phosphorus helps move energy throughout the plant, especially important in maturing plants.

Potassium aids plants in adapting sugars needed in growth and is especially helpful in root crops. While we ignore our own “ghar ki murgi”, we buy huge amounts of chemical NPK fertiliser that is nothing but a chemical rehash of the same three elements.

Cow dung also contains large amounts of humus, a wonderful soil amender. Humus is simply the bulky, fibrous material that comes from plant fibres and animal remains and is valuable in several ways: it enriches clay soils; supplies food for soil flora and fauna; preserves moisture during dry spells while ensuring good drainage during wet times; and it is a storehouse for nitrogen in the soil. In short, humus acts like a reservoir, allowing nutrients to work.

Fresh cow manure has the highest nitrogen content. Manure left to age six to 12 months is lower in nitrogen but has less chance of burning tender roots.

Very few people realise that the world is heading for an acute shortage of phosphorous in soil fertility. (Rock phosphate is a near monopoly of the US Rocky Mountains and China and both realise the commercial significance of their phosphorous mineral wealth.) It is going to be an international crisis akin to the petroleum shortages. Cow dung contains up to 0.2 per cent phosphorous and that alone justifies its recycling in to soil. The economic importance of cow dung could be as a source of phosphorous alone. The content in cow dung manure is one to three kilograms per ton of cow dung manure. Even more important; phosphate in chemical fertilisers, being water soluble, get washed away in irrigation water. The phosphate in cow dung fertiliser binds itself to the roots of the plants and does not get wasted by getting washed away.
However, phosphorus reaches the cow through the feed it takes. Soils that are organically rich are able to supply fodder and grasses that are rich in phosphorous. So, ultimately we have to close the loop and shift to organic cow dung fertilisers for our soils to ensure continuous phosphorous sustainability.

This is an ideal fertiliser, according to farmers: mix 10 kg of fresh cow dung, two kilograms of groundnut cake and two kilograms of neem cake and add 100 litres of water. Stir well for 15 minutes daily for 15 days. To apply to plants, take a litre of the fermented solution and dilute with 10 litres of water. Pour around the base of the plant; a simple and easy to use technology. Women can prepare the fertiliser themselves and sell it if they like. Since there are no additives or toxic chemicals in this preparation, it is very suitable for organic farming practices. Better still, its cost of preparation is low compared to an equal quantity of inorganic fertiliser or plant protection chemicals.
Cow dung makes much better garden plants as well. Add it to the kitchen waste you throw out: onion and banana peels, etc.
Composting manure at home is a simple process that can be completed in as little as a week.
Buy a compost bin. Put 2.5 kg of sand at the bottom of your compost bin or pit. Cover the sand with a 2.5-kg layer of normal soil. Cover the soil with a 4.5-kg layer of cow dung manure. Cover the manure with kitchen waste. Cover the compost with soil. Cover the compost bin with a suitable lid or black garden plastic and, after seven days, dump the contents of the bin into a single pile on the ground. Use the rake to thoroughly mix the contents of the manure compost pile. Break apart large chunks with the rake to further disperse the ingredients together. Leave the cow manure compost uncovered for a day before putting it onto your garden bed.
I guarantee that you will have much bigger, healthier plants. Cow manure can be used more directly to fertilise individual plants. A scoop of cow manure inserted into the base of a pot for squash or pumpkins, for example, gives them a nutritional boost for growing. You can also use cow manure spread around the base of established plants, particularly in sandy or nutrient-poor soils. This will provide nutrients over a longer period of time.
As our population increases and land holdings get smaller and smaller, cattle manure is the only answer.
This is the way it should be done: cattle are sent to grazing areas during the day and penned at night. Manure that accumulates in the pens is dug out towards the end of the dry season. It is allowed to cure for up to three months and then spread on the fields in September/October. One cow or buffalo gives about 1.5 tonnes of manure per year.

The most important significance of cow dung and cow urine is to maintain the organic microbial and mineral micronutrient richness of soil. Many researchers have studied the value of cattle manure as a fertiliser compared with mineral fertilisers. Can manure restore and maintain soil productivity in nutrient-depleted sands? Yes, it can; manure application to granitic sands overcomes or prevents deficiencies of micronutrients. Cattle manure contains an average of 1.04 per cent nitrogen, 0.15 per cent potassium and 0.78 per cent phosphorus and 32 other micronutrients. The nitrogen release is low and spread over time. Manure applications result in increases in pH, waterholding capacity, hydraulic conductivity and infiltration rates. The soil conditioning ability of cow manure due to the amount of quality organic matter, that no fertiliser can match, is reason enough to use it. The soil amending properties of this great natural fertiliser are unbelievable.
Cow dung sustains all life. Beetles, larvae, worms, bacteria, fungi love it. Birds eat the seeds, insects, larvae and worms in it, and some of the dung itself. Mice and other rodents tear it apart, looking for nutritious morsels. Reptiles stake out hunting territories around it. Land tortoises eat it for easy calories and B vitamins. Cow dung is a mountain of food delights for all creatures. It provides moisture, sustenance and shelter for a long list of creatures that form the chain of life itself.

Examine a cow dung pat: in a five-minute period you will see butterflies, wasps, bees, beetles, moths, flies, hornets, dragonflies, lacewings , mantis, ants. Ecologically, dung is a big deal. Fungi suck enzyme-dissolved carbohydrates from it into the soil. Beetles feed on it and in the process loosen, fertilise and aerate the soil.
Remember that the sacred Egyptian scarab, a symbol of rebirth, is a dung beetle.

Source: The Statesman

COW DUNG – A Source of Green Energy 

Traditionally cow dung has been used as a fertilizer, though today dung is collected and used to produce biogas. This gas is rich in methane and is used in rural areas of India/Pakistan and elsewhere to provide a renewable and stable source of electricity. According to the International Energy Agency, bioenergy (biogas and biomass) have the potential to meet more than a quarter of world demand for transportation fuels by 2050.
Biomass has become an increasingly important energy source in Denmark over the last 25 years. Being a carbon neutral energy source, it has already helped make a significant contribution to the reduction of Danish carbon emissions. The conversion of more biomass at power stations will help Denmark reach its target of 30% renewable energy by 2020. Today, biomass accounts for approximately 12% of world energy consumption.

Yet the potential of using biogas has so far been unexploited, especially in the form of livestock manure in the agriculture system. Denmark is well known for its farming industry; approximately 65% of the land is used for agriculture, emitting 18% of all greenhouse gases here, through methane and nitrogen. So farming has an important part to play in the transition to a fossil fuel free society. The Danish government now wants up to 50% of livestock manure to be made into this green energy supply.

One of the world’s largest biogas plants is currently being built in North West Jutland, in one of Denmark’s most important agricultural areas. Due for completion in 2012, Maabjerg Bioenergy will convert 500,000 tons of biomass into pure energy. The big plant is a co-operation between agriculture, local government and district heat stations and will purify livestock manure, while at the same time produce heat and electricity to the nearby cities of Holstebro and Struer.

When operational, Maabjerg Bioenergy will provide both environmental and employment benefits. Helping reduce carbon emissions, provide clean green energy and enable local farmers to maintain current herds, with potential for future cattle increases. With biogas currently exempt from Danish taxation, it is hoped that over the next ten years there will be up to fifty new large scale biogas plants in Denmark.