Vermicomposting

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Vermicomposting is the process by which worms are used to convert organic materials (usually waste) into humus. Earthworms eat cow dung or farm-yard manure along with other farm/kitchen waste and pass it through their body, converting it into vermicompost in the process. Earthworms not only convert garbage into valuable manure but also keep the environment healthy. The objective is to process the material as quickly and efficiently as possible.


Contents

Benefits

  • Worms can convert the waste into organic matter and also fertilizers with high humus content.
  • Worms have a number of other possible uses on farms, including value as a high-quality animal feed.
  • Vermicomposting offer potential to organic farmers as a source of supplemental income.
  • The worms can also produce excellent organic pesticide.
  • Vermicompost appears to be generally superior to conventionally produced compost in a number of important ways.
  • Vermicompost is an eco-friendly natural fertilizer prepared from bio-degradable organic wastes and is free from chemical inputs.
  • It does not have any adverse effect on soil, plant and environment.
  • It improves soil aeration and texture, thereby reducing soil compaction.
  • It improves water retention capacity of soil because of its high organic matter content.
  • It promotes better root growth and nutrient absorption.
  • It improves nutrient status of soil—both macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients.
Nutrient Profile of Vermicompost and Farm-Yard Manure
Nutrient Vermicompost Farm-Yard Manure
N (%) 1.6 0.5
PO (%) 0.7 0.2
KO (%) 0.8 0.5
Ca (%) 0.5 0.9
Mg (%) 0.2 0.2
Fe (ppm) 175.0 146.5
Mn (ppm) 96.5 69.0
Zn (ppm) 24.5 14.5
Cu (ppm) 5.0 2.8
C:N ratio 15.5 31.3

Source: Punjab State Council for Science and Technology, Chandigarh

Vermibeds

A thatched-roof shed, preferably open from all sides with unpaved floor, is erected in the east-west direction lengthwise to protect the site from direct sunlight. A shed area of 12ft by 12ft is sufficient to accommodate three vermibeds of 10ft by 3ft each having 1-ft space in between for treatment of nine to 12 quintals of waste in a cycle of 40 to 45 days.

The length of shed can be increased/decreased depending upon the quantity of waste to be treated and availability of space. The height of thatched roof is kept at 8ft from the centre and 6ft from the sides. The base of the site is raised at least 6 inches above ground to protect it from flooding during rains.

The vermibeds are laid over the raised ground. The raised ground is watered and a 4-inch to 6-inch layer of any slowly bio-degradable agricultural residue, such as dried leaves/straw/sugarcane trash, is laid over it after soaking with water. A 1-inch layer of vermicompost or farm-yard manure follows this. The composting area should be kept dark by covering the mixture with a sack or husk. Earthworms are released on each vermibed at the following rates:

Precautions

  • Vermiculture pits should be protected from direct sunlight.
  • To maintain moisture level, spray water on the pit as and when required.
  • Protect the worms from ants, rats and birds.
  • Avoid putting meat and seafood waste in the feed as it attracts scavengers.

Feeding

A balance between “green matter”, such as kitchen waste, and “brown matter”, such as leaves, is essential for the worms to feed and multiply. This is called “carbon to nitrogen ratio”, and should be approximately 2:1 (C:N). This also helps in reducing odour. As the worms are multiplying, it is not easy to weigh them and hence the loading can be done at a rate of 2 inches per bed per day.

Harvesting

The loaded waste is covered with a jute mat to protect earthworms from birds and insects. Water is sprinkled on the vermibeds daily according to requirement and season to keep them moist. The waste is turned upside down fortnightly without disturbing the basal layer (vermibed). The appearance of black granular crumbly powder on top of vermibeds indicates harvest stage of the compost. Watering is stopped for at least five days at this stage. The earthworms go down and the compost is collected from the top without disturbing the lower layers (vermibed). The first lot of vermicompost is ready for harvesting after two to two-and-a-half months, and the subsequent lots can be harvested after every six weeks of loading.

There are different methods of harvesting depending upon the bed design. In case of boxes, the principal of attracting the worms to new organic matter is used. A wire mesh separates the boxes and the worms move to the new box.

Eco-Friendly Pesticide

A vertical ‘V’ shape bin with an opening at the end is used. At the bottom of the ‘V’-shaped bin, there is a fairly fine mesh that does not allow the worms to escape. The same method is used for bedding and feeding. The only difference is that water is poured from the top and collected at the bottom through the opening at the bottom of the ‘V’- shapes bin. The same water may be circulated many times to get a thicker fluid. This fluid mainly consists of the oily substance present on the skin of the worms and it can be collected to be used for spraying on trees.

References and Useful Websites

  • A Venture Into Vermiculture!
  • OACC Manual of On-Farm Vermicomposting and Vermiculture
  • Commercial Vermiculture: How to Build a Thriving Business in Red worms by Peter Bogdanov
  • Casting Call by Peter Bogdanov
  • Worm Digest by Peter Bogdanov
  • Earth 911
  • Organic Centre
  • Recycled Organics
  • Vermiculture manual
  • Alternative Organic
  • VermiCo
  • Vermitech
  • Vermitechnology Unlimited
  • Worms Argentina
  • The Worm Research Centre
  • Worm Bins - Vermicomposting Systems
  • Worm Woman