The Science of Composting

Peculis presented the first of three Mizzou Botanic Garden (MUBG) Brown Bag Seminars of the 2024 season. “The Science of Compost”, was held in the Friends Room of the Daniel Boone Regional Library, which along with the City of Columbia, cosponsored the program. She led those gathered on a deep dive into the chemistry and biology of composting.


Peculis expertly practices three types of composting: aerobic, known to most as an outdoors compost “pile”, an anaerobic procedure known as bokashi, and vermiculture, which is a red wiggler worm-aided compost technique.


Because the mechanism of aerobic composting requires heat, Bokashi and vermiculture make composting a year-round endeavor.


Composting is decomposition, a process that relies on the muscles of bacteria and fungi. Up to one billion bacterium are in a pea-sized amount of soil, microbes that digest organic matter and convert it into chemical forms that are utilized by other microbes, invertebrates and plants. Microbes and fungi critical to decomposition already exist in the soil.


Bokashi is a Japanese-inspired form of container composting that uses the addition of “Bokashi bran” — a mix of bacteria and yeast — layered with food waste to anaerobically pre-digest it in a process that eliminates odors and decreases composting time. Once the bucket is full, it needs to ferment in the bucket for two to three weeks, at which time it is buried for three to four weeks to fully degrade.


Vermiculture, or vermicomposting, uses bins filled with shredded paper and European native red wiggler worms (Eisenia fetida/andrei) that turn food waste into nutrient-rich compost. Red wigglers are not the same as common earthworms. Vermiculture bins can be located inside or outside, though they prefer temps of 55 to 77 degrees.


You can view Peculis’ shared scientific composting deep dive expertise here. For more information about composting, visit the City of Columbia’s schedule of free composing workshops on their website.