the decomposition of vegetable matter into compost?elaborate on this

Asked by mrinalchatterjee | 25th Sep, 2010, 11:44: AM

Expert Answer:

Decomposition of vegetable matter occurs in many stages. It begins with leaching by water; the most easily lost and soluble carbon compounds are liberated in this process. Another early process is physical breakup or fragmentation of the vegetable matter into smaller bits which have greater surface area for microbial colonization and attack. In smaller dead vegetable matters, this process is largely carried out by the soil invertebrate fauna, whereas in the larger vegetable matters, primarily parasitic life-forms such as insects and fungi play a major breakdown role and are not assisted by numerous detritivore species. Following this, the vegetable matter detritus (consisting of cellulose, hemicellulose, microbial products, and lignin) undergoes chemical alteration by microbes. Different types of compounds decompose at different rates. This is dependent on their chemical structure. For instance, lignin is a component of wood, which is relatively resistant to decomposition and can in fact only be decomposed by certain fungi, such as the black-rot fungi. Said fungi are thought to be seeking the nitrogen content of lignin rather than its carbon content. Lignin is one such remaining product of decomposing vegetable matters with a very complex chemical structure causing the rate of microbial breakdown to slow. Warmth determines the speed of vegetable matter decay, with the rate of decay increasing as heat increases, e.g. a vegetable matter in a warm environment will decay over a shorter period of time.

In most grassland ecosystems, natural damage from fire, insects that feed on decaying matter, termites, grazing mammals, and the physical movement of animals through the grass are the primary agents of breakdown and nutrient cycling, while bacteria and fungi play the main roles in further decomposition.

The chemical aspects of vegetable matter decomposition always involve the release of carbon dioxide.

Answered by  | 25th Sep, 2010, 02:08: PM

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