I am unaware of references to the Chinese using anaerobic processes but the fact of those processes are they create methane emissions, and keep pathogens and weed seeds intact.
I do not keep any compost piles except vermicompost, and chickens. Since the animals consume all my organic materials I do not really have the material to make a compost pile in the traditional sense. So my experience is very positive, the animals do all the work!
My opinion? People worry too much about composting methods.
There are so many ways to use surplus organic materials that, like Zach, I don't find myself with much stuff to compost. What I have, I chuck in a pile. Someday that pile will be rich black stuff. When that day comes, I'll dig it up and use it.
Given enough time, everything organic becomes compost. You can't fail at compost. Just pile it and forget it.
The Chinese anaerobic methodology was developed as an above ground, layered system, designed for the incorporation of human waste composting over a period of three years.
They build what might be best described as a lasagna bed, and a finished bed is then covered with a layer of soil followed by a tarp, these days the tarps are made of cotton.
The pile is then left to sit for a minimum of three years before being used.
Today this method is still in use in China but mostly in the farming communities, other areas are using aerobic methods since they break down the materials faster as well as getting to temperatures that will kill pathogens and weed seeds.
There are so many ways to make use of organic materials that there should be no wasted materials by anyone involved in gardening of any sort.
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In Taiwan (where gardening tradition is presumably form China), they put everything in big barrels of water where is composts anerobically then use the resulting "tea" as fertilizer. I have never seen what they do with the resulting sludge but I imagine they dump it in an inconspicuous corner of the garden. They don't compost to add OM, just the nutrients.
Anaerobic conditions inside of hot compost piles produce phenols, alcohols and other nasty organic chemistry not so good for plants. however there are types of anaerobic breakdown that are beneficial for life. this is mainly down with lactobacillus and alters rather than a rotting process that does produce strong smells. this is why bokashi has long been used in the orient and i use sauerkraut juice in my garden. lactobacillus are great for gardens especially brassicas.
all people have their styles with composting, like food choices its very personal. this is what i have practiced and come to understand after many years of trial and error and studying and working with Dr Ingham.
Aerobic piles are good for market gardeners. They kill weed seeds, pathogens, and produce a friendly compost.
Anaroebic piles are the farmers friend. They require less attention/handling and preserve a greater percent of the nutrients (aerobic piles offgass a lot of goodies). They're great for pasture application.
Its not entirely cut and dried; all anaerobic piles are aerobic go through at least one aerobic phase (right after they're laid) and most aerobic piles that aren't intensively managed go through some level of oxygen shortage.
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