A compost cone (pile)
In order to understand the importance of laying the compost mass in piles or cones, let’s try to penetrate into the essence of the composting process, even very simplistically. Very schematically, the process looks like this. The first to function are the microorganisms that live under ordinary temperature conditions, the humidification of straw and manure is the signal for them to start functioning. These «living creatures» begin feeding and multiplying, which is why energy in the form of heat is released. Next, it’s up to physics. When the amount of energy released by the microorganisms in the process of their vital activity is higher than the amount of lost energy, the compost’s temperature rises.
Screens used for laying the compost in a cone
The losses are possible when that energy is taken from the compost, in our case it happens when there’s excess air exchange in that mass. In other words, if the inside of compost pile is drafty, this kind of compost will never begin to function. It’s not difficult to guess, that the intensity of air exchange inside the mass of compost will depend on the shape and size of the piles, cones and clamps. In the beginning of the composting process, when the straw’s structure is hard and firm, the dimension of the piles should be much bigger, than in the end of the fermentation process, when the straw’s structure is much softer. This means that composting is an aerobic process which requires the presence of oxygen. Knowing how much, when and where is one of the main conditions of obtaining good compost. If there’s too much oxygen, the composting process simply will not begin, (perhaps because of this, the temperature of the compost pile’s surface doesn’t differ from the surrounding air temperature much), or the temperatures will be not high enough, which will result in great loss of organic matter. When there’s lack of oxygen, anaerobic processes will begin, which will negatively affect the compost’s quality.
The compost production technologist’s goal is to pick the optimal dimensions and shapes of piles, cones and clamps considering the straw’s quality, the compost’s structure, its humidity and the temperature of the air where that compost is made, and of course, the readiness of the compost. It’s important that the biggest volume of the compost pile functioned in an optimum performance. In order to control that, temperature must be measured in different parts of the compost. The most objective indicator is the formation of the «temperature section» of the pile, cone and clamp. All drawbacks at forming the piles, cones and clamps — nonuniform thickness, uneven surface, incorrect form, all this is reflected on the compost’s temperature.