a small study of rotting

towards the end of December i had bags of left over soybean husks to use eventually in the worm bins. not wanting to pass up a good chance of comparing processes i took some worm castings (about a dry quart) and added them to layers of wetted husks and then kept the bin moist.
i started one bin and then a few weeks later started a second bin. both had more husks added to them as they compacted. two bins eventually held five bins of husks. if i'd continued the test i could have added another today (about two months from the start date).
as noted in another thread recently the fungi side of the rotting equation is somewhat oriented towards acidic and ammonia. i noticed last week that things were starting to get a little strong smelling, but was hoping it would pass. it didn't. the bacteria in the worm castings alone could not keep up with the fungi without their worm hosts to keep the bedding aerated and stirred. today i broke apart the first bin and added it to the worm bins.
digging into it was like opening a bottle of ammonia. phew! tomorrow i'll hope to get to the second bin.
in the end, the compaction and rotting by fungi, etc of the worm free bins was good for getting space back, but the smell and having to then process it anyways in a second stage didn't save much. for the storage considerations it was much easier to store dry bean husks than to have more bins. much lighter.
this next season i hope to not have quite so much late husking to do and that will keep the shells outside and in the ground as fast as i can get them buried. we'll see... :)
songbird
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What a shame, when one smells ammonia one is loosing nitrogen. Steve
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Steve Peek wrote: ...

righto. both bins are now in the worm bins. the second bin didn't have the same ammonia smell. the worms will sort it out before spring. they have a few months.
it was a good test to see though if the worm casting innoculant of the soybean husks would be enough bacterial population to keep the fungi from dominating. it didn't. so test done. worms added. all is well. ammonia smelly husks now buried in several inches of worms and dirt.
songbird
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Sounds like not enough brown/too much green. You want 25/1, B/G
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Billy wrote: ...

i wasn't aiming for composting in the bin. i was aiming to test if the worm castings would contain enough bacteria to control fungi. the answer i got was no.
if i were composting in a bin i surely would have adjusted the proportions appropriately and mixed from time to time.
as it goes, the bins here, i decidedly do not want them getting into a hot stage of composting. Ma would get a bit upset if she could smell anything. which is why worm composting works well.
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Apparently the bacteria, and the fungi didn't get the message that you weren't composting. What did you expect to happen when you threw a bunch of organic material together?
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Billy wrote:

the expectation was that some form of rot would happen. i consider composting to be quite different than rotting. which is why i called it a small study of rotting and not a small study of composting.
i did not know specifically what would happen. that's why i did it. to answer the question about bacteria in worm castings. to see if castings were enough on their own to moderate or control fungi. at the rate of application of one dry quart to seventeen dry quarts of husks, the answer is no.
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Since fungi create a low pH environment, and bacteria a high pH one (relatively speaking), it appears the bacteria won (NH4 = pH > 7).
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Billy wrote:

the bin was full of fungi and smelled of ammonia. hmm... now i'm really confused. hahaha...
ok.
can't revisit atm, experiment terminated, until next supply of husks comes around.
as side notes, usually in the dirt the bacteria include species of nitrogen fixers and consumers of ammonia so it is very rare for me to smell ammonia coming from dirt unless i've happened to hit a localized heavy spot of organic material being decomposed by fungi.
if what you say is true that would be the reverse case wouldn't it? do you smell ammonia when you work in your garden soil as compared to what you smell when messing with the soil/mulch layer boundary?
so i do really think that if the bacteria had indeed won i would not have been smelling ammonia. the pH was not measured for either bin so i can't say what it was.
i do know that the innoculating worm castings and soil had nitrogen fixing bacteria present because much of it was taken from the same bin from top to bottom. so there were anaerobes as well as aerobes in there. if i dig to the bottom of any of the bins i'll find the methane/boggy smell, but the soil above (and the bacteria) filter/consume the smell/methane before it gets out.
the worms have no trouble with the bottoms of the bins. their tunnels either let them get enough oxygen or they are daytripping downstairs for nummies and then coming up for oxygen later.
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when the mulch is very thick >.50cm. Decomposition of amino acids (acid + NH3) can be a strictly chemical reaction.

recognizable oder.

the frozen tundra which releases incredible amounts of methane (greenhouse gas) as it thaws.

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Billy wrote:

and there are bacteria that will turn it back into the gas form again.

half a cm of mulch is not much mulch at all. did you mean 5cm? i'm thinking of several inches of mulch at least for when i notice it. the bin was about 30cm of soybean husks.
the note about it being a strictly chemical process is interesting, but in a bin mixed with worm castings laden with fungi and bacteria i can't imagine there being much of that going on that was not mediated by either fungi or bacteria. the entire bin from top to bottom was full of spores.

yep. but they'll be around in other soils too. there's really not many places that bacteria will not colonize given a chance.

ah yes. hydrogen sulfide is part of the swampy smell.

i'd be sure they are at the boundary, but it being so cold they are probably limited by the frozeness below and the more active/warmer bacteria, etc. above.
if there is an energy source there is likely a bacteria that feeds off it (i would not be surprised if there were a bacteria that also feed off nuclear reactions too).
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heard of bacteria converting NH3 back to N2. You got a citation?

water, not much happens, because water is the media of metabolism.

Not many nutrients in alpha particles, and x-rays. If you mean warm water, for sure.

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Billy wrote:

not handy. i may be misremembering or misclassifying, could be an algae, cyanobacteria, eubacteria or whatever they are being called these days. nothing like advancements of science to screw up a poor memorizers brain. :) anyways i do know there is a nitrogen cycle.
i did just read about it a few different times in overview. really. i wasn't daydreaming...
ages ago i was into reef aquaria and they can be finicky about nitrogen pollution.

50cm is a lot of mulch. i sometimes smell ammonia from the layer from under 10-15cm of mulch.
...

not nutrients, energy. like what the chloroplasts or diatoms get from the sun.
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Not much visible light from radioactivity, until it is too late (BOOM). Light waves may promote an electron to a higher orbital, but nuclear reactions produce ionizing radiation that will blow an electron right out of the atom, and very possibly break bonds.
The next time you find yourself in a library you may want to look up:
The Color of Plants on Other Worlds Scientific American April 2008
pg. 48
Putting it all together, our atmosphere demarcates windows through which radiation can make it to the planet's surface. The visible radiation window is defined at its blue edge by the drop-off in the intensity of short-wavelength photons emitted by the sun and by ozone absorption of UV. The red edge is defined by oxygen absorption lines. The peak in photon abundance is shifted from yellow to red (about 685 nm) by ozone's broad absorbance across the visible.
Plants are adapted to this spectrum, which is determined largely by oxygen-yet plants are what put the oxygen into the atmosphere to begin with. When early photosynthetic organisms first appeared on Earth, the atmosphere lacked oxygen, so they must have used different pigments from chlorophyll. Only over time as photosynthesis altered the atmospheric composition, did chlorophyll emerge as optimal.
(and so on and so forth)
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Billy wrote:

There are cyanobacteria and several other types that absorb different spectra than the usual green. There are extremely ancient fossils that look like they might contain archea or bacteria with pigments that predated chlorophyl.
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The Color of Plants on Other Worlds Scientific American April 2008
pg. 48
The firm fossil evidence for photosynthesis dates to about 3.4 billion years ago (Ga), but earlier fossils exhibit signs of what could have been photosynthesis. Early photosynthesizers had to start out underwater, in part because water is a good solvent for biochemical reactions and in part because it provides protection against solar UV radiation-shielding that was essential in the absence of an atmospheric ozone layer. These earliest photosynthesizers were underwater bacteria that absorbed infrared photons. Their chemical reactions involved hydrogen, hydrogen sulfide or iron rather than water, so they did not produce oxygen gas. Oxygen-generating (oxygenic) photosynthesis by cyanobacteria in the oceans started 2.7 Ga. Oxygen levels and the ozone layer slowly built up, allowing red and brown algae to emerge. As shallower water became safe from UV, green algae evolved. They lacked phycobilins and were better adapted to the bright light in surface waters. Finally, plants descended from green algae emerged onto land- two billion years after oxygen had begun accumulating in the atmosphere.
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wrote:

Vica versa. Anaerobic is stinky.
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