The Compost Bunch

I’ve only just started out testing my Foldscope and these are my first shots of trying to get down with the compost crew from my kitchen composting bucket. I’m interested in soil biology, or rather compost food web diversity for producing quality compost tea. It’s very exciting to actually be able to asses the diversity of microbes in a compost batch! Since compost quality is critical for regenerating degraded soils and making quality aerated compost teas, assessing the samples is important, and Foldscope will allow me to do just that! 🙂

The samples I tested so far are from my kitchen composting bucket. This is where I compost  home bio-waste; everything left over from food preparation (so just ‘raw’ biological waste), tea, coffee, plant residuals, egg shells, old spices, hair from brushing, etc.. – the green component – and stuff like toilet rolls, ear cleaning sticks made from paper and cotton, cotton swabs, sawdust, leaves, cardboard, etc…  To get the batch started, I do collect a bit of forest soil and litter as all the decomposers for jump starting the process of biological food processing are presumably there 🙂  Sometimes I add IMO 1 (using this method: https://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/bio-9.pdf) to add diversity. But most of the time I just use older compost to start a new batch. So, I do expect to find the general populations of the soil food web found in my temperate climate deciduous forest ecosystem in my compost.

I’m interested in who I’ll be able to find in this type of composting method (this is the principle: https://youtu.be/t_1HL9H1cnA), and then compare the microbial populations I find in a thermal compost batch (Dr. Elaine Ingham recipes), and the Johnson-SU Bioreactor.

Ok, so here’s my first try and some of the guys I encountered in one sample of the kitchen composting bucket:

  • A springtail (Collembola)
  • Mite (Acarina; not sure which type – is it a predatory mite or a fungal feeder or …?).

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  • Another springtail.

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  • Not sure if this is an egg of a mite that has already hatched? Next to it is a fungal hyphae and something I can’t identify 🙂

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  • A nematode, presumably from Rhabditidae family because of the tail? The oval shaped bubble next to it’s head could also be some organism, but the resolution isn’t good enough to identify.

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  • Another nematode..

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  • Some kind of a hatched egg? 🙂

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  • A bit of micro-plastic.

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  • Sawdust and a fungal hyphae + sawdust and bacteria grazing on it…

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  • Hyphae, and some organic matter

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There was a lot more bacterial agglomerations and organic matter and different types of hyphae, but not all the pictures turned out good. Have to practice using the Foldscope…

Anyway, could use help in better identification if possible, so if you have any ideas, please comment 🙂

4 Comments Add yours

  1. rodelente says:

    Hi,
    It is wonderfull, i just got my foldscope and tried to see something in a sample of soil but nothing appear at the moment and the focus is sometime not very accurate
    Do you have advise to give me for to prepare a sample of soil ?
    How you process for to dilute it ?

    thank you

    1. Cvijeta says:

      Hi!
      It takes some getting used to focusing and adjusting the light. Also, having a phone with a good camera helps with looking through your sample. I find it much easier to look through using the camera screen and zooming in and out to check what I see.

      As for preparing the sample, I was kind of following the instructions that come with the Foldoscope; point 7. Guided Experiment: find tardi and friends!, but just with a sample from home-made compost. Basically, I put a very tiny amount, a small aggregate in the tube I got with the kit. I then put water in it and gently turned it up side down for a minute to break the aggregate and release organisms in the water. But springtails and mites can be seen by naked eye. It’s just tricky to catch a springail ‘cos it jumps around as you approach it.. so that took some time, I killed a few in the process, and managed to catch one in the end 🙂 ..This is a picture showing a sample with several springtails: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=348197572429603&set=a.172176936698335&type=3

      As for foucusing and learning how to find this in your sample, it takes a while. I first used the grid coverslip to help me orientate in space and scale 🙂

  2. Manu Prakash says:

    I am just amazed with the biodiversity of your compost bucket @cvijeta. What a wonderful description – thanks for also sharing your tricks. Foldscope has a learning curve and its very valuable to share our tricks along the way.

    cheers
    manu

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