STUDIES ON THE CO-COMPOSTING OF OIL PALM EMPTY FRUIT BUNCH AND PARTIALLY-TREATED PALM OIL MILL EFFLUENT

Author: Nzomiwu Victor Chima
Department: Applied Microbiology
Affiliation: Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka

The objective of this work was to investigate the physicochemical changes and microbial successions occuring in the co-composting of oil palm emptyfruit bunch (EFB) with partially-treated palm oil mill effluent (POME) in windrow compost pile. The experiment lasted for 60 days and the POME from anaerobic pond was sprayed unto the shredded EFB for the first 40 days. The composting materials were turned over three times weekly for proper aeration. Temperature and oxygen were monitored at different depths of the composting piles; C, N, pH, presence of nutrients, heavy metals and total bacterial counts were also determined. Bacterial degraders present in the compost pile were species of Bacillus,Streptoccocus and Micrococcus while the fungal species included Aspergillus, Penicillium, Mucor and Trichoderma. The physico-chemical changes such as temperature increased up to 56oC at day 10 of treatment, after which it fluctuated between 55oC to 57oC and then decreased in the latter stages of the process. The pH of the system remained at (6.8-8.3) and did not vary significantly during the treatment period. Moisture content dropped from 60% from day 10 to 50% at 30th day and 33% at the final day. The initial C/N ratio of 51/1 was significantly reduced to 35/2.3 after 60 days. Curing which is a resting phase started from the 50 th day to the final day. The cured compost contained a considerable amount of nutrients (carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, iron), and trace amounts of manganese, zinc, copper. In addition, trace amounts of heavy metals were detected in the compost (<0.5mg/l). The total count of bacteria involved in the composting process decreased at the end of the composting period. The results obtained indicated that windrow system of co-composting EFB with POME gave acceptable quality of compost and ease of operation. Aspergillus flavus gave the highest clearance zone of 20mm in diameter on carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) agar plate after flooding with congo red. The compost product is potentially useful in palm oil plantations as fertilizer and soil amenation products. This was indicative of the ability of moulds to break down cellulose and lignin present in solid wastes found in our local environment and converting them to a good “bio-organic fertilizer” called a compost.

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