Monthly Archives: March 2023

Carbon and nitrogen are amazing basic components of life to exist and grow. Carbon is important because it is an energy-producing factor, and nitrogen because it builds tissue. Carbon to nitrogen ratio (C:N ratio) is an important parameter during composting of organic matter, it is related to the beneficial soil microbial biomass and activities for human sustainability through the natural way of farming or organic farming.

Soil microorganisms need a good balance of carbon and nitrogen (ranging from 25 to 35) to remain active. High C:N ratios can lead to prolonged composting duration and low C:N ratios enhance nitrogen loss. For example, a C:N ratio of 10:1 means there are ten units of carbon for each unit of nitrogen in the substance. The C:N ratio of everything above and in the soil can have a significant effect on crop residue decomposition, particularly residue cover on the soil and crop nutrient cycling (predominantly nitrogen).

According to USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (2011), soil microorganisms have a C:N ratio near 8:1. They must acquire enough carbon and nitrogen from the environment in which they live to maintain that ratio of carbon and nitrogen in their cells. Soils with a C:N ratio of 24:1 have the optimum ratio for beneficial soil microbes to stimulate release of nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and zinc to crops. This ratio influences the amount of soil-protecting residue cover that remains on the soil.

It is important to understand these ratios when planning crop rotations and the use of cover crops in agricultural systems. Most farms produce carbon as a by-product by the end of the cycle and accumulate nitrogen as the main product during the productive, harvesting, and post harvesting cycle.

It has been proven that the excess of the carbon in the atmosphere causes global warming, unpredictable weather, and global catastrophe. In this case carbon capture and storage or sequestration by capturing carbon dioxide before entering the atmosphere and storing in the soil and plants are utmost important.

The recent problem with the regulation of the excess of nitrogen can be seen by the protest of the Dutch modern farmer last Summer. The Dutch government’s proposal to halve nitrogen oxide and ammonia pollution in the country by 2030 will likely make many farmers drastically reduce their number of livestock and crops.

Scientists around the globe estimate that humans can pour roughly a “reasonable” 565 gigatons until the scariest number is 2795 gigatons of carbon dioxide by this midcentury. The official position of planet Earth at the moment is that we cannot raise the temperature more than two degrees Celsius – it’s become the bottom line. Two degrees.

Meanwhile The most abundant naturally occurring gas is nitrogen (N2), which makes up about 78% of air. Nitrogen makes up almost four fifths of the air we breathe but being unreactive is not used in respiration at all – we simply breathe the nitrogen back out again, unchanged. However, nitrogen is essential for the growth of most living things and is found as a vital ingredient of proteins.

Starting composting with thermophilic (high temperature) process and vermicomposting with mesophilic (medium temperature) process in the family using beneficial soil microbes and earthworms and their decomposer friends may help to prolong the long live on the earth and comfortable healthy and happy community.  

The table carbon to nitrogen ratios of crop residues and other organic materials is courtesy of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

-Bintoro Gunadi-