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History Of Composting

How would you like to know the origins of composting? The origin of composting is difficut to pin to a specific individual or even one society. The ancient Akkadian Empire in the Mesopotamian Valley talked about the use of manure in agriculture on clay tablets 1,000 years before Moses was born. There also is information that Romans, Greeks and the Tribes of Israel knew about composting. The Bible and Talmud both have numerous references to the use of rotted manure straw, and organic references to compost are contained in tenth and twelfth century Arab writings, in medieval Church texts, and in Renaissance literature. Famous authors such as William Shakespeare, Sir Francis Bacon, Sir Walter Raleigh all mentioned the practice of composting.

On the North American continent, the benefits of compost were noted by both native Americans and early European settlers of America. New England farmers made compost as a recipe of 10 parts muck to 1 part fish, periodically turning their compost heaps until the fish dissappeared (except the bones). One Connecticut farm, Stephen Hoyt and Sons, used 220,000 fish in one season in their compost production. Many other famous individuals produced and promoted the use of compost like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington Carver.

The early 20th century brought on the development of a new scientific method of farming. Work done in 1840 by a well-known German scientist, Justus von Liebig, showed that plants obtained nourishment from certain chemicals in the compost mix. Liebig dismissed the significance of humus, because it was insoluble in water. After that finding, agricultural practices became highly chemical in nature. Combinations of manure and dead fish did not seem very effective beside a bag of fertilizer. For farmers all over the world, chemical fertilizers replaced compost.

Sir Albert Howard, a British agronomist, went to India in 1905 and spent almost 30 years experimenting and learning about organic gardening and farming. He discovered that the most beneficial compost consisted of three times as much plant matter as manure, with materials initially layered in sandwich fashion, and then turned during decomposition (known as the Indore method). In 1943, Sir Howard published a book, An Agriculture Testament, based on his findings. The book had renewed interest in organic methods of agriculture and earned him recognition as the modern day father of organic farming and gardening.

J.I. Rodale carried Sir Howards work further and introduced American gardeners to the natural benefit of composting for improving soil quality. He established a farming research center in Pennsylvania and the monthly Organic Gardening magazine. Organic gardining and farming are becoming increasingly popular. A growing number of farmers and gardeners who depend on chemical fertilizers are realizing the value of compost for plant growth and restoring depleted soil.


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