… And Here Comes Vermicompost

It is hard to imagine modern agriculture business in developed countries without state-of-art machines, artificial fertilizers and computers. Crop areas year by year acquire new previously uncultivated territories, while the field management experience growing problems of crop yield shortage and land resources fast recovery. Moreover those problems are being intensified by global natural resources pollution and descending efficiency of chemical manure which turns into soil humus deterioration. Aiming to find a reasonable solution for the world wide crops growing intensity scenario (in order to win a victory over global food scarcity) we would like to propose the idea of using vermicompost methods in agriculture. The methods which derive from Ancient Rome times (Latin “vermis” means “worms”). Still it is used in modern world: United Arab Emirates agrarians grow beautiful Eden gardens on vermicomposted soil and get up to three crops per year backed by precise irrigation systems.

Vermicompost means the product of composting using worms and bacteria activity. The castings of the worms are rich in nitrate, available forms of P, K, Ca and Mg; the product has low acidity and thus is suitable for growing the wide range of crops. Vermicompost also contains phytohormones and humates which effect as growth agents in terms of activating plant development.

Vermicompost production is almost independent and high-efficient process. Each worm can eat its own body weight per day and sires of several hundreds specimen annually. The smallest extreme for earthworm existence equals to 10oC and 60% of soil humidity – thus it can maintain a working cycle of 7-8 months on moderately continental climate areas. Thereby 1 kg of earthworms can produce up to 240 kg worm nutrient-rich organic fertilizer humus per year. Of course we mean particular species as red worms (Lumbricus rubellus, Eisenia fetida). Vermiculture can be practised anywhere, even on a small scale, and easily be integrated into any agricultural system.

Problems with traditional thermophilic composting relate to long duration of the process, loss of nutrients during the prolonged process, and the heterogeneous resultant product. In vermicomposting, the earthworms take over both the roles of turning and maintaining the material in an aerobic condition, thereby reducing the need for mechanical operations and make the final product homogenous. Vermicompost has also many advantages over chemical fertilizers: improves structural stability of the soil (prevents soil erosion), improves soil texture and water holding capacity, decreases the use of pesticides, restores microbial population which includes nitrogen fixers and phosphate solubilizers.

Earthworms can be used to detoxify soils contaminated with solid waste, pesticides or heavy metals. The worms do this by storing these substances in their tissue. Worm enzymes and microbes in the worm humus can also degrade toxic substances, transforming them into compounds which are hardly digestible for plants. Although worms have proven to be highly resistant, the toxicity level should not be too high. Earthworms mostly reproduce organic wastes (hay, animal excrement, fish remains, plants), but some experiments prove that they can even deal with plastic, polyethylene and … metal wares.  Can’t it become a way to turn waste deposits into flowering areas?

As for now vermicomposting is widely used in the USA, Canada, Italy, Japan and Malaysia. On the other hand we can ascertain its lack in Europe and CIS regions which are considered to be world leading agriculture producers. The popularization of traditional vermicomposting earthworms farms can change the character of the regions, introduce economy on chemical fertilizers and soil processing, raise the level of ecological security. Vermicomposts have many outstanding biological properties and the use of technology may lead to long-term efficiency in crop cultivation. Vermicompost technology has promising potential to meet the organic manure requirement in both irrigated and rainfed areas. Within the process earthworms also get multiplied and the excess worms can be converted into vermiprotein which can be utilised as feed for poultry, fish etc. Given suitable conditions, vermicomposting appears to provide a relatively straightforward solution to the management of compostable organic wastes and cultivating significant crops.

Tags: IEASSA, vermicompost, worm, earthworm, fertilizer, organic, recycle, composting, Lumbricus rubellus, Eisenia fetida

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