Sunday, May 30, 2010

Biofertilizante= Fermentación y Fertilización

When I discovered that this country devours cabbage with every meal and that the Northern region of Nicaragua has strong German influence, I thought, where is the sauerkraut? However, fermentation has made its mark on agriculture and food here in other ways. Fermentation in the North of Nicaragua plays two important roles: biofertilizante for our crops and the fermentation involved in processing coffee.

While many of the sustainable farm practices here are relatives of those we enlist on farms in the U.S., one distinct practice implemented here, is the making and use of homemade biofertilizantes, or foliar fertilizers. I have been impressed by the widely accepted use of manure and sugars to create the base of a number of fermented biofertilizantes.

In February and March, I worked diligently to put together two manuals, "Establecimiento y Manejo de Patio Huertos" and "Asistencia Técnica en Forma de Monitoreo" to accompany a series of workshops we delivered to promotores of the Huertos Familiares project in April on the same subjects. Unable to upload the manuals, I have chosen to place a few recipes from the manuals in this blog entry, one for a biofertilizante and another for a bocashi compost, both translated into English and adjusted to U.S. measurments and available resources. They are easy and quick to prepare and the recipes are adaptable, meaning only readily available organic materials should be used.

12 lbs. fresh cow manure
1/2 block of sugarcane, or 1 lb. white sugar, molasses
3 litres milk (fresh from cow if available)
4 oz. ash from fire

1 5- gallon bucket with lid
syphon or ruber tubing

Dilute cow manure, sugar, milk, and ash in enough water to fill at least half the bucket.
Mix well, removing any clumps from the mixture.
Once mixed, fill the rest of the bucket with water.
Cover with lid. In the lid carve a hole just the right size to place the syphon or rubber tubing.
Place one end of rubber tubing in the lid so it is in contact with the water.
Place other end of tubing in a 1 or 2 litre soda bottle.
Leave bucket in a cool dark space.
Mix daily for 7 days and then let sit 3 days without stirring.
After 10 days, strain the solid material and pour the liquid into a pump sprayer.
Apply 2 or 3 litres to one pump sprayer and dilute with 18- 20 litres water.
Apply every 8 days to the foliage of crops to give them a boost of N, P, K.

The application of this fertilizer has best results when applied in the early morning or evening, when the sun and hot temps cannot burn the fertilizer applied to the leaves.

ingredients for making 16 sacks of compost in 15 days.
5 sacks rice hulls or dried grass or leaves
5 sacks fertile soil
5 sacks cow or chicken manure or both
1.5 sacks carbon (charcoal from fire)
23 lbs. semolina
10 lbs. lime
5 lbs. sugar
172 lb. yeast
optional: spent coffee grounds

choose a spot protected from the sun, wind, and rain or prepare outdoors and cover with black plastic. Work in a site with firm ground bemeath.

Layer the materials, keeping in mind a good mix between gren and brown materials. Water should be added to drier layers, not building the pile higher than 50 centimenters.
Mix the sugar and yeast in water and pour lightly and homogenously over the top of pile and mix to spread the mixture to all parts of pile, thus beginning the fermentation.
Once finished, begin to turn the pile twice daily for 5 days and then once daily for 7 days.
Let the pile sit for 3 days.
The pile should always feel moist and warm in the center.
Test pile to make sure everything is well mixed and decomposed.
Place compost into sacks, protected from sun and rain until used.
The compost should not be left for more than 3 months.


  1. Nice work! It looks like you are doing some really meaningful stuff out in the world- blessings!

  2. How does one obtain 127 pounds of yeast?