Brenden Brown of the Illinois University asked “how to do you open the bioreactors and what processes do you use to protect the fungal hyphae?”
I didn’t have an answer, so I asked Scott Hortop, our compost wizard. Turns out Scott opens the side of the bioreactor, shovels the fungal rich compost into a wheelbarrow and then runs it through a hammer mill to create a soft and fluffy material. It is then stored in 11 liter ice cream buckets. The lid receives slits so some air is available.
Is this the right idea?
Is there a way to enhance the effectiveness of the compost by treating it in a different manner? Let’s find out. In keeping with our exploration of FDC we’ve initiated a new program: The Bioreactor Microscopy Analysis Project. BMAP for short.
The project was started by Joanne Kowalczyk and Kelvin Hodges on April 12, 2023.
To start the BMAP Joanna and Kelvin opened a small slit down the back side of the bioreactor. They took 9 samples moving from the top, middle and bottom of soil stack. From each of those sample spots they collected compost samples at the surface, into the bioreactor 5-7 inches; and in 10 or more inches at which point they were collecting frozen material.
Joanna will use microscopy to look at the soil. Early results from a frozen sample indicate the presence of hyphal structures, fungal spores, flaglettes, amoeba. Huzzah. Further results to follow.
We hope to support Joanna’s work by adding more microscopy enthusiasts.
Want to spend time staring through a microscope learning about soil life and microscopy? Let us know. Kelvin will organize a microscopy class and we will share the experience.
For those interested in microscopy have a look at this guide to the microscopy of agricultural soil (really neat):
”Do it yourself guide for microscopy of agricultural soil”, published by Økologisk Landsforening 2020.
Questions and more questions
We hope this microscopic analysis will add information to inform other questions too: like, can you see the hyphae? What do they look like? What kind of numbers might be in a sample? Is there a difference in microbial life at different parts of the compost stack?