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Erich Sysak
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Any thoughts on bagasse as compost? I found a sugar mill in the next county that sells it cheap. But,, I haven't found much info on it...

Many thanks for sharing your experience.

 
John Elliott
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It's mostly cellulose, so as brown rot fungi degrade it, it will provide nutrients as compost. But it does not contain any appreciable nitrogen, so it is not going to give any flush of new, green growth. For that, you will have to add manure of some type to it.

If you are using it in a composting recipe, consider it 100% browns.
 
Erich Sysak
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John Elliott wrote:It's mostly cellulose, so as brown rot fungi degrade it, it will provide nutrients as compost. But it does not contain any appreciable nitrogen, so it is not going to give any flush of new, green growth. For that, you will have to add manure of some type to it.

If you are using it in a composting recipe, consider it 100% browns.


Thank you, John. This is so helpful. I wanted to ask green or brown, but forgot. You're a mind reader...

E
 
Mat Smith
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Location: Gold Coast Hinterland QLD, Australia
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Erich Sysak wrote:Any thoughts on bagasse as compost? I found a sugar mill in the next county that sells it cheap. But,, I haven't found much info on it...

Many thanks for sharing your experience.



I love the stuff!
Here in QLD I am near some sugarcane farms, so can also pick it up cheap.
I have used it as mulch on the vege patch, as well as in compost piles. Some of it still has a decent amount of molassas in it so speeds up the composting process.
Another great use is to use bails as garden edging or compost containment. In a years time after all the rain, the bails are full of earthworms and break down into the most beautiful compost which is light and fluffy - great for potting mix.
Only caution I would use is to check what agri chemicals are used on the sugarcane crops. I only use organic bagasse nowdays.

I have also started growing oyster mushrooms on bagasse - very simple and effective
 
Erich Sysak
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Thanks, Mat. I'm feeling enthusiastic about the opportunity...The operator told me in an e-mail he has several by-products useable as compost. This makes me a bit concerned, but we shall see...

Erich
 
Fred Neecha
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Are you growing your own sugar cane? I've started growing my own and it's pretty neat. I think left over sugarcane itself may be more viable for good compost than just the bagasse... Similar to bamboo as a biomass producer? Not sure.
 
Erich Sysak
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Hi Connor and all,

We do grow our own, but only about 2 or 3 meters of it. The left over stalks go right into the compost. Buying a large amount of bagasse would be a 1 time project for an area of about 1 acre where we're digging a pond and trench. It's just the sheer volume I could get at once that had me considering.

Erich
 
Fred Neecha
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For free?

Regardless, that sounds pretty good... but I do know that my leftover sugarcane can get black mold-ish stuff.
 
Erich Sysak
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There is a royal farm up the road where I get many things for free, but in this case I'll have to pay a little for the truck driver, the petrol and probably 30 or 40 dollars per truckload to the sugar mill.

It's not much and I'm lucky to be in this situation.

E
 
Fred Neecha
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This is kinda unrelated, but I've been using water that sugarcane nodules for propagation have been sitting in as feed for my microbe tea and it seems to be working nicely. :O After a few days the sugar water will start fermenting and... oh boy!

I just like growing sugarcane more and more... that's all...

And yes, that really is a great situation to be in. If I could find a good way of preventing the bagasse from getting black mold, I'd certainly do it.
 
Brett Andrzejewski
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Mat Smith wrote:
Only caution I would use is to check what agri chemicals are used on the sugarcane crops. I only use organic bagasse nowdays.


I used to work with the sugarcane factories and sometimes growers (this was in greater New Orleans, prior to moving back to New Mexico). I would recommend getting organic if possible.

I know that many non-organic sugarcane growers are constantly dealing with cane rust and spray anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-pest treatments on their fields. If the sugarcane field has a lot of weeds they will spray glyphosate (Round-up) when the sugarcane crop is still young. They spray enough to kill the weeds, but only stunt the growth of the sugarcane. Right before the growers harvest their field, 1 to 2 weeks, they often treat the field with glyphosate (Round-up) in order to 'brown up' their crop. This helps get rid of the sugarcane leaves and keep the sugarcane stalks.
 
Brett Andrzejewski
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Dale Hodgins wrote:Bagasse would seem to be a good candidate for rocket stove fuel and cellulose insulation.


As I was leaving my last job (see previous post) a small start up company was making prototypes of particle board from bagasse (sweet sorghum and sugarcane). The extremely long fibers in the sugarcane and sweet sorghum and how they interlocked gave the particle board incredible strength. If the company pressed the bagasse hard enough didn't even need glue in particle board manufacture.

I'm sure it would be great substitute for straw in reinforcing cob.

If you treat the bagasse with boric acid (at the proper conditions and concentrations) you can make it fire resistant.
 
Druce Batstone
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My first reply/comment on Permies so please excuse any glitches. As a retired sugar mill engineer, the discussion on bagasse is very interesting. My first job 45 years ago was to compost bagasse to make moulded pots for sugarcane seedlings. My most recent job was to dry sugarcane for animal feed and for hydromulch. I have noted some confuson in terminology. Bagasse is the fibrous residue after extraction of >90% of the solubles by milling. It is as "brown" as paper/cardboard as John has mentioned. Erich, you will need a lot of manure for trucklloads of bagasse. You mentioned "The operator told me in an e-mail he has several by-products useable as compost". I suggest you enquire further. He/she may be referring to mill mud or filter cake. If so, consider the possibility of using mill mud in the compost mix. On its own, mill mud is an excellent fertiliser/soil conditioner.

Mills only want stalk. Most of the tops and dead leaves (trash) are left in the field. Some growers bale the trash, sell direct or to processors who package it for the retail mulch market. As Mat mentioned, trash may have some molasses (water soluble carbohydrates) that will speed up the composting process. The green tops have some nitrogen but mixed with dry leaves the C:N ratio would still be very high. The zing comes from water soluble carbohydrates (WSC). On a smaller scale, whole sugarcane will add even more zing to a compost mix. I have made many batches of compost with roughly equal volumes of shredded, whole sugarcane and horse poo. Most mixes reach 70oC in two to three days. While not directly relevant to the topic, bagasse behaves very differently as a mulch compared to dried trash and dried whole sugarcane. Water does not easily percolate through a layer of bagasse unlike the equivalent thickness of trash or whole sugarcane.

I would not be too worried about nasties in by-products from a sugar mill. Significant studies have been made on the fate of chemicals used by sugarcane growers. To the best of my knowledge no trace of any chemical has ever been found in the harvested portion of the sugarcane plant. You can be very sure bagasse would be one of the cleanest "browns" around. Mill mud could be a bit more problematic as this is the destination for most of the soil contamination in the harvested sugarcane. More caution is required with trash as recovery and baling of trash may result in soil contents as high as 30%. To reiterate, no residues in sugarcane but be aware of the possiility of residues in soil in baled trash and less so in mill mud.

The comments on other uses of bagasse as an insulating and structural fibre caused me to recall comments made at a conference of sugar technologists many years ago. The discussion followed a presentation on "Caneite" - a wall board made from compressed bagasse. One user was not satisfied. Apparently he had built a holiday shack at the beach from Caneite. The following year he was disappointed to find the cows had eaten the walls. Caneite production was discontinued soon after.

Good on you Erich for raising the topic. I reckon you and Connor are on the right track with growing sugarcane. It surely has a place in tropical and sub-tropical permaculture.

 
Brett Andrzejewski
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Hello Druce, welcome to Permies!

Thanks for the great post. Where where you a mill engineer (Louisiana, Florida, outside the US)?
 
Druce Batstone
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Thanks Brett; nice to be welcomed. I confess to having lurked with great interest for many months. I worked mainly in Australia with stints in Indonesia, Laos, Bangladesh, China, Mexico - all in sugar mills and with great people.
 
bill crawford
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I found this exchange very interesting and hope I can pick it up again.

I run a company Rio Hondo Cane. We make sugarcane juice in South Texas. We sell the juice, we don't process it into sugar or molasses.

In making the juice, we make a LOT of bagasse. We are currently chopping the bagasse and trying to make mulch and/or compost out of it.

We are going to mix the bagasse with organic chicken manure for compost.

Druce Batstone seemed to have a lot of experience with this. We are also considering peletizing the compost to make for easier field application.

Any further tips on making mulch/compost with bagasse would be great. Has anyone tried making a feed with bagasse?

Thanks
 
Brett Andrzejewski
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Hello Bill, welcome to Permies!

I was working with several sweet sorghum start up companies who wanted to use the bagasse for value-added products. I think the company/product that seemed most viable was the using bagasse as particle board. The sorghum was billeted about 8 inches long and only crushed through (2) 4 mill press. The longer fiber bagasse was then pressed and some glue to make a super strong particle board.

My former research group was examining composting bagasse, but didn't want to listen to my advice. The project didn't get very far.

When composting such large amount be careful about the size of the pile and moisture content. There is a critical size where the composting process will dry the entire compost pile and auto-ignite. Sugar factories (Louisiana) told me that during a really long dry spell (no rain to moisten the pile) that their bagasse piles would sometimes smolder and catch fire.

I've also spoken with a commercial compost company here in ABQ, NM. They have had similar incidents were the pile would get too dry and would catch fire.
 
Druce Batstone
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Bill, nice of you to acknowledge my contribution to the bagasse topic, thanks. Rio Hondo Cane must be a most interesting enterprise. Off topic but where do you sell the juice?

Presumably your bagasse is in the form of crushed, whole stalks of sugarcane and the sugar content will be significant. If you shred the crushed stalks (some wood chippers do an excellent job), the pile(s) will heat up very rapidly when mixed with chicken manure. Depending on the scale of your operation, you might want to consider the static, aerated pile method. Have a look at the final report of trials done at a commercial compost facility in California http://www.valleyair.org/grant_programs/TAP/documents/C-15636-ACP/C-15636_ACP_FinalReport.pdf. If sugarcane tops are easily collected, I would include them in the compost.

The haul distances for field application would have to be very long to justify making pellets from the compost. Mill-run bagasse is the very devil to pelletise. Compost will be easier but will cause high wear. The high temperature generated in pellet presses would kill the beneficial micro flora. Pan or drum agglomeration might be a better option if the compost must be densified for transport.

You could also consider charring some of the bagasse for incorporation in the compost. Sun-dried crushed stalks would seem to be an ideal material for charring in an open cone kiln (e.g. http://www.ithaka-institut.org/en/ct/101-Kon-Tiki-open-fire-kiln).

As Brett mentions, auto-ignition is a real possibility but rare. The sugar industry has researched the conditions causing auto-ignition in bagasse piles. Moisture is a factor as a sustained increase in temperature to 180 oC to 200 oC (when charring is visible) is caused by an exothermic chemical reaction. Our experience with charring in superheated steam drying of sugarcane confirms the danger point is about 35% moisture. The rough number is backed up by hay stack fires (wetter than normal hay) and the Louisiana sugar mill experience with bagasse piles drying out (lower than the normal 50% moisture content).

Finally on the question of feed from bagasse; the prospects are not very promising. The best results were obtained when the lignin bonds in the bagasse fibre were broken down e.g. by addition of caustic soda or by steam treatment. Even so digestibility and palatability remain low.

All the best with your efforts to utilise bagasse.
 
bill crawford
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Wow! Thanks so much for your response. This will help get us on the right path quickly.

Currently, we sell our sugarcane juice at farmer's markets locally. We have a lot of orders for it from retail stores, and we are ramping up our production to meet these orders. We have a pasteurized product that is very good tasting. Hopefully we will be on store shelves in october.

If you would like a sample bottle or two, just let me know and I will send you one. Gratis! For all your help.

That goes for anyone else who reads this post. We want to get the word out to folks who are familiar with cane.

The toughest problem we are having now is finding a high-speed peeler. The cane juice taste much better if the cane is peeled before squeezing. We have purchased a couple of peelers so far, but they have not been very good.

Here's a toast to cane juice!!
 
jimmy gallop
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bio char would be a good value-added product
bio char,electricity,charcoal,heat for the plant.
 
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