Physico‑chemical, microbial and phytotoxicity evaluation of composts from sorghum, finger millet and soybean straws


1 International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad, Telangana, 502324, India

2 Present address: International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Hyderabad, Telangana, Tanzania


Purpose Composting is an environmentally sustainable alternative for bioconversion of agricultural residues into a nutrient rich product that can enhance soil fertility/microbial diversity and thereby improve agricultural productivity. The goal of the current study was to evaluate the decomposition pattern of the agro-residues and assess the maturity and phytotoxicity of the composts obtained using physico-chemical, microbial and statistical analyses. The study also attempted to determine a threshold germination index (GI) to serve as a maturity index for the composts by conducting seed germination assays with tomato, chickpea and soybean seeds.
Methods Three agricultural residues/straws of Eleusine coracana (finger millet), Sorghum bicolor (sorghum) and Glycine max (soybean) were subjected to aerobic composting for a period of 60 days to study the impact of saw dust on the decomposition pattern and the ultimate compost quality/characteristics.
Results The results showed efficient decomposition pattern of the agricultural residues characterized by high temperature profiles (up to 70 °C), high microbial activity, a sharp decrease in C/N ratio of the composting materials, i.e., from an initial 41–61 to final 10–17.
Conclusions Statistical evaluation of seed germination assays showed that only the compost obtained from sorghum straw+saw dust was mature and free from any phytotoxicity as all the tested seeds showed higher and statistically significant GIs. It was difficult to attribute a single threshold GI value to indicate maturity of compost and could not further be applied to different types of composts as different seeds responded differently to the same compost.