The Waste Products of Agriculture
Their Utilization as Humus
Sir Albert Howard, C.I.E., M.A.
Director of the Institute of Plant Industry, Indore,
and Agricultural Adviser to States in Central India and Rajputana
Yeshwant D. Wad, M. Sc.
Chief Assistant in Chemistry, Institute of Plant Industry, Indore
Oxford University Press
London New York Toronto Melbourne
Bombay Calcutta Madras
One of the main features of crop production at the present day is waste. Except in the Far East, where the large indigenous population has to be fed from the produce of the country-side, little is being done to utilize completely the by-products of the farm in maintaining the fertility of the soil. The ever-growing supplies of agricultural produce, needed by industry and trade, have been provided either by taking up new land or by the purchase of artificial manures. Both these methods are uneconomic. The exploitation of virgin soil is a form of plunder. Any expenditure on fertilizers which can be avoided raises the cost of production, and therefore reduces the margin of profit. It needs no argument to urge that, in maintaining the fertility of the soil, the most careful attention should be paid to the utilization of the waste products of agriculture itself before any demands are made on capital -- natural or acquired.
For the last twenty-six years, the senior author has been engaged in the study of crop production in India and in devising means by which the produce of the soil could be increased by methods within the resources of the small holder. These investigations fell into two divisions: (1) the improvement of the variety; and (2) the intensive cultivation of the new types. In the work of replacing the indigenous crops of India by higher yielding varieties, it was soon realized that the full possibilities in plant breeding could only be achieved when the soil in which the improved types are grown is provided with an adequate supply of organic matter in the right condition. Improved varieties by themselves could be relied on to give an increased yield in the neighbourhood of ten per cent. Improved varieties plus better soil conditions were found to produce an increment up to a hundred per cent or even more.
Steps were therefore taken: (1) to study the conversion of all forms of vegetable and animal wastes into organic matter (humus) suitable for the needs of the growing crop; and (2) to work out a simple process by which the Indian cultivator could prepare an adequate supply of this material from the by-products of his holding. In other words he has been shown how to become a chemical manufacturer. This task involved a careful study of the various systems of agriculture which so far have been evolved and particularly of the methods by which they replenish the soil organic matter. The line of advance in raising crop production in India to a much higher level then became clear. Very marked progress could be made by welding the various fragments of this subject -- the care of the manure heap, green-manuring and the preparation of artificial farmyard manure -- into a single process, which could be worked continuously throughout the year and which could be relied upon to yield a supply of humus, uniform in chemical composition and ready for incorporation into the soil. This has been accomplished at the Institute of Plant Industry at Indore. The work is now being taken up in Sind and at various centres in Central India and Rajputana.
The Indore process for the manufacture of humus is described in detail in the following pages. It can be adopted as it stands throughout the tropics and sub-tropics, and also on the small holdings and allotments of the temperate zone. How rapidly the method can be incorporated into the large-scale agriculture of the west is a question which experience alone can answer. It will in all probability depend on how far the process can be mechanized.
In the field of rural hygiene there is great scope for the new method. It can be applied to the utilization of all human, animal and vegetable wastes in such a manner that the breeding of flies is prevented, the water and the food-supply of the people safeguarded and the general health of the locality improved. Cleaner and healthier villages will then go hand in hand with heavier crops.
6 April, 1931
Of composts shall the Muse disdain to sing?
Nor soil her heavenly plumes? The sacred Muse
Nought sordid deems, but what is base; nought fair,
Unless true Virtue stamp it with her seal.
Then, planter, wouldst thou double thine estate,
Never, ah! never, be asham'd to tread
(From Grainger's The Sugar Cane.)
The Agricultural Systems of the Occident
The Agricultural Systems of the Orient
- Peasant Holdings
- Undeveloped Areas
2. Organic Matter and Soil Fertility
Soil Humus, its Origin and Nature
The Formation of Soil Humus
The Role of Humus in Soil Processes
The Washington Symposium on Soil Organic Matter
3. The Sources of Organic Matter
The Root-Systems of Crops
Artificial Farmyard Manure
4. The Manufacture of Compost by the Indore Method
The Compost Factory
Collection and Storage of the Raw Materials
- Plant Residues
- Urine Earth and Wood Ashes
- Water and Air
Arrangement and Disposal of the Bedding under the Work Cattle
Charging the Compost Pits
Turning the Compost
Time-table of Operations
Manurial Value of Indore Compost
5. The Chief Factors in the 1ndore Process
The Continuous Supply of Mixed Vegetable Wastes
Composting single Materials
The Amount of Water Needed
The Supply of Air
The Maintenance of the General Reaction
The Fermentation Processes
Gains and Losses of Nitrogen
The Character of the Final Product
6. Application to Other Areas
A. The Manurial Problem in India
B. Some Aspects of Soil Improvement in Relation to Crop Production
C. Nitrogen Transformation in the Decomposition of Natural Organic Materials at Different Stages of Growth
D. An Experiment in the Management of Indian Labour
Next: 1. Introduction
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