Growing bananas using recycled organics

00:10 Almost half of household waste destined
for New South Wales landfills consists of food and garden organic waste. Space in landfills
is rapidly running out, and burying organics is a waste of a valuable resource. While many
facilities are not taking this food and garden waste and turning it into valuable compost,
some are, and this compost has potential to benefit commercial horticultural systems.
Biomass Solutions manager Alan Wright tells us about the composting process. 00:48 We process domestic and commercial green
waste here at the facility. The green waste comes in the trucks. It’s ground and then
loaded into the composting bays. Takes about 21 days for the material to go from one end
of the composting bays to the other. In that time, it sits at around about 60-65 degrees
at about 45 to 50% moisture content. Once it’s been through that process, it comes outside
here for natural maturation in those windrows. And then when it’s matured, we put it through
the screener and it’s 25 mil screen and then he’s sold to growers and the public. We use
accredited labs to do 4454 Australian standards and those that testing’s available. 01:43 Justine Cox is a soil scientist at the
new South Wales DPI and has over 15 years experience with compost. Here, she tells us
about the properties of compost. 01:54 Good quality compost provides a variety
of benefits to the soil. Compost increases the water holding capacity of the soil. This
means that more rainfall or irrigation is held in that soil for the plant roots to access.
Not only that, but compost particles in the soil often improve soil structure, increasing
root volume. Compost is also teeming with life, including bacteria and fungi. These
diverse soil organisms are vital for transforming organic nutrients to plant available nutrients,
such as nitrogen and phosphorous. 02:29 Other compost properties to know, so
that it suits your needs, are particle size, carbon to nitrogen ratio, and pH. To get high
quality compost with no weed seeds, make sure the supplier provides evidence of the compost
temperatures and the nutrient content of the batch supplied. Something to be aware of when
using organic mulches is it can take nitrogen away from the soil if the mulch is too high
in carbon. 02:59 One of the constraints of farmers using
compost is the ease of application. New machinery may allow compost to be applied easier to
commercial banana operations on steep slopes. 03:13 The machine’s mounted on a truck that
is all-wheel drive, and has the ability to access most sites. The machine has the ability
to transfer 12 cubic metres per hour. The compost can be transferred up to 120 lineal
metres from the truck. The machine can apply all compost and all grades of mulches. We
can either pre-load offsite or use a Bobcat or a frontend loader to load onsite. 03:49 Paul Inderbitzen is a banana grower
from Queensland. Here, he tells us about his views on compost and how he uses it on his
farm. 03:58 We’ve been using compost for the last
10-15 years now, because we think it’s a great way of getting organic matter onto the block,
and also it’s a really great mechanism for getting biology to your soil, and also basically
improving soil carbon. The best benefit is the increase in soil carbon. That’s the aim
of it all. The second benefit is water retention through the addition of all that extra organic
matter. We believe we’re getting a better moisture holding capacity in the profile. 04:42 The other benefit is we’ve been able
to slightly reduce our chemical fertiliser input. Our compost, we make it ourselves.
Our standard recipe is third ratio of each, tree waste, manure, chook manure, cow manure,
pig manure, whatever we can get our hands on, whatever’s available, and grass or [be-gas
00:05:10] or something like that. 05:12 Look, we apply the compost using just
a normal everyday belt spreader. We’ve gone through many different spreader configurations
but for us, it works for us and in our situation, just a belt spreader is sort of straight forward
and simple. Belt brings it out the back onto two spinners and it just side discharge underneath
the bananas. 05:33 There’s been no problems using compost.
The compost we use is a really, we like to think we do the compost well. It’s a well
matured compost. We haven’t seen any adverse effects with it, no. 05:48 In March, 2017, torrential rainfall
fell on the banana trial as a result of Cyclone Debbie. After returning to the site, it was
pleasing to see much of the compost still in place, and not washed away by the rain.
Throughout the trial, monitoring of soil nutrients, plant nutrients, and moisture availability
were undertaken. 06:14 Monitoring of the trial showed that
compost increased organic matter, increased soil pH, and increased zinc and potassium
levels. Plant parasitic nematode numbers dropped under the compost treatments and the compost
also protected the soil from erosion during two severe rainfall events. Suckers that emerged
during the trial tended to be taller under the compost treatments. 06:39 The compost blower could apply compost
to steep slopes, however, the process was time consuming. Further investigation is required
to develop better techniques to gain advantage of the benefits of compost.

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