Volume 10 Part 2 Article 10: The Use of Cattle Slurry as a Mushroom Compost Material

Volume 10 Part 2 Article 10
Year 1979
Title: The Use of Cattle Slurry as a Mushroom Compost Material
Author: W.M. Dawson


The mushroom crop is the largest single horticultural commodity m Northern Ireland and accounts for approximately 10% of the United Kingdom crop. However Northern Ireland produces little m the way of traditional raw materials for compost making Supplies of horse manure are limited and where available are from small scattered units generally making it uneconomic to collect Competition for supplies of horse manure from the traditional sources m the Republic of Ireland have been increasing with the production of mushrooms in that country increasing from 1.8 million kg in 1970 to 6 8 million kg m 1976 In the search for non horse manure and synthetic composts workers have turned to waste materials which are either readily available and/or capable of being stored for future use such as the hay/corn cob mixture of Yoder and Sinden (1953) the poultry manure and wheat straw mixes of McCanna (1970) and Gerrits (1974) and the town refuse/pine bark compost of Delmas and Laborde (1972).

The trend over the last ten years in Northern Ireland towards an increase m the numbers of cattle housed m non bedded systems has resulted m an increased quantity of slurry (faeces + urine + a variable quantity of water) to be disposed of Previous work at the Centre (Ross, 1968) had concentrated on the use of pig slurry, however further experience highlighted several difficulties chiefly undesirable elements m the slurry due to diet and thera peutic chemicals and a high biological oxygen demand (B.O.D.) eg undiluted pig slurry has a B.0.D. of 30 000 mg/litre whilst the B.O.D. of cattle slurry is 15 000 mg/htre. For these reasons the emphasis was placed on cattle slurry as the main source of nitrogen in this series of trials at Loughgall. Wheat straw readily available m the Republic of Ireland where the total area grown is approximately 50 000 ha was used as the bulk material. The area of wheat grown annually in Northern Ireland is negligible (600 ha) however barley straw which is available within the Province has two major disadvantages:

(i) other work at the Centre (Dawson, 1976) shows that barley straw yields a less productive compost with productivity decreasing as the straw is stored.

(ii) there is a demand for barley straw from other farming enterprises resulting in higher prices.

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