UKPCS Science Life Sciences_Economic Zoology: VERMICULTURE# 25

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Vermicompost (or vermi-compost) is the product of the composting process using various species of worms, usually red wiglers, white worms, and other earthworms, to create a mixture of decomposing vegetable or food waste, bedding materials, and vermicast.
Vermicast (also called worm castings, worm humus, worm manure, or worm feces) is the end-product of the breakdown of organic matter by earthworms.These castings have been shown to contain reduced levels of contaminants and a higher saturation of nutrients than the organic materials before vermicomposting.
Vermicompost contains water-soluble nutrients and is an excellent, nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner.It is used in farming and small scale sustainable, organic farming.

Suitable worm species

One of the species most often used for composting is the red wiggler or tiger worm (Eisenia fetida or Eisenia andrei); Lumbricus rubellus (a.k.a. red earthworm or dilong (China)) is another breed of worm that can be used, but it does not adapt as well to the shallow compost bin as does Eisenia fetida. European nightcrawlers (Eisenia hortensis) may also be used.

Blueworms (Perionyx excavatus) may be used in the tropics.

USES:

  • Soil conditioner
    Vermicompost can be mixed directly into the soil. The dark brown waste liquid, or leachate, that drains into the bottom of some vermicomposting systems as water-rich foods break down, is best applied back to the bin when added moisture is needed due to the possibility of phytotoxin content and organic acids that may be toxic to plants.
    The pH, nutrient, and microbial content of these fertilizers varies upon the inputs fed to worms. Pulverized limestone, or calcium carbonate can be added to the system to raise the pH.

Benefits:

  • Soil
    1)Improves soil aeration
    2)Enriches soil with micro-organisms (adding enzymes such as phosphatase and cellulase)
    3)Attracts deep-burrowing earthworms already present in the soil
    4)Improves water holding capacity
  • Plant growth
    1)Enhances germination, plant growth, and crop yield
    2)Improves root growth and structure
    3)Enriches soil with micro-organisms (adding plant hormones such as auxins and gibberellic acid)
  • Economic
    1)Biowastes conversion reduces waste flow to landfills
    2)Elimination of biowastes from the waste stream reduces contamination of other recyclables collected in a single bin (a common problem in communities practicing single-stream recycling)
    3)Creates low-skill jobs at local level
    4)Low capital investment and relatively simple technologies make vermicomposting practical for less-developed agricultural regions
  • Environmental
    1)Helps to close the “metabolic gap” through recycling waste on-site
    2)Large systems often use temperature control and mechanized harvesting, however other equipment is relatively simple and does not wear out quickly.
    3)Production reduces greenhouse gas emissions such as methane and nitric oxide (produced in landfills or incinerators when not composted or through methane harvest)



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