Thursday, March 18, 2010

Compost & Plant Heat Generation?

It is beautiful today (17C, 63F) and the sun is shining.  I went on a walk but didn't take any pictures because the Municipal Gardens look just like they did last time I posted.  This maybe an odd request but does anyone know where I can find good detailed information on heat production through compost decomposition?  I'm also curious about the heat released by plants through metabolism. 

More specifically, I'm curious about things like compost composition, changes in heat production with time, and the influence of exterior temperatures, water, and the addition of various microbes or other catalysts.  I would also like to know what studies have been done on the heat generated by plants.  Thing such as specific species that generate higher temperatures and maybe information on typical heat expenditure per biomass of plant.

I have no idea if anyone has any good resources.  Usually I can find things very quickly.  I'm having the most trouble finding info on heat generated from plants themselves.  Even if you could just suggest search terms, or maybe databases.  I'm not looking for theoretical stuff but actual numbers from studies.  Thanks for any help you can give!!


  1. I recall that 'The Rodale Book of Composting' gets pretty technical. Not sure if it specifies temps though, been a while since I read it. Check out the library, that's were I borrowed it.

  2. Thanks! I'll be sure to take a look! There might be an electronic version available through my university.

  3. Here's a paper on Thermogenesis in Amorphophallus titanum that may be helpful. More importantly though are the references, some of them look more helpful than others but you know better what you're looking for.

  4. There are a few about philodendron that seem useful. I'm surprised how many seem to do with heat related to the reproductive parts of plants. Thanks for the article!

  5. Would your local or higher Solid Waste Authorities have info like this...since they do the biggest decomposition piles in the world...I have read that they are capturing gases released by the decomp process and looking into using it for fuel. I'm sure they could steer you in the right direction as far as any studies go. Good luck!

  6. I'm not sure if they have it specific to compost. But you did remind me of my Landfill design course. We had this data for typical municipal waste so I could ask my old professor if he has data for just compost.

    I actually had to design a landfill for the class including the liner system, embankments, leachate collection, and gas collection systems. The environmental guidelines are really strict! For the size it wasn't economical to capture the methane. There is also a problem with output consistency. You need a certain minimum amount and it varies greatly.

    At another site they had trouble with the generators breaking down. I think it's very important and essential for the future but there are still a lot of kinks in the system that need to be worked out...

    Anyways, thanks for the idea!

  7. I didn't think it was the Philodendron bipinnatifidum post. I spent minutes upon minutes searching Mr. Subjunctive's archives looking at Spathiphyllum and other Aracea, completely forgetting that Philodendron is one, too!

    Gah. Anyway. Mr. S goes into great detail about how the plant's flower heats itself to maintain a constant temperature (providing links to certain references). It seems, actually, to make a lot of sense for a plant to create a protective environment out of its reproductive bits for its pollinators.

    For composting... That'll take more digging. I would have to get my books out from Microbial Ecology, and I really don't want to try to figure out which box it's in right now!

  8. Microbial ecology eh? Sounds like a lot of fun. We something that could have been fun but was turned into something awful by an educational institution. I can't wait to graduate!


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