Worm Composting / What’s Compost
Worms are a tiny but formidable force, eating their way through organic matter and leaving a trail of rich humus in their wake. Aristotle called them the intestines of the world. Worm composting or vermicomposting is a simple biotechnological process of composting, in which certain species of earthworms are used to enhance the process of waste conversion and produce a better end product.
These help to break the waste and the added excreta of the worms makes the compost very rich in nutrients. Furthermore, this process is faster than composting.
Composting, often described as nature’s way of recycling, is the biological process of breaking up of organic waste such as kitchen waste, dog poop, grass, food waste, newspaper, leaves, and coffee grounds, etc., into an extremely useful humus-like substance by various micro-organisms including bacteria, fungi and actinomycetes in the presence of oxygen.
Actinomycetes are similar to fungus in the way they grow and spread, but its distinguishing elements are that the types of materials they are efficient at decomposing. The active nature in this microscopic bacteria and the sheer number present (about 10 million per 1 gram of soil), make them highly effective at breaking down materials like tree bark and other hard organic material.
Worm Composting / Red Wigglers
The most commonly used worms for vermicomposting are red wigglers (Eisenia foetida and Lumbricus rubellus). These non-burrowing earthworms eat 10% soil and 90% organic waste materials and convert the organic waste into vermicompost faster than the burrowing earthworms.
They can tolerate temperatures ranging from 0 to 40°C but the regeneration capacity is more at 25 to 30°C and 40–45% moisture level in the pile.
Earthworms consume various organic wastes and reduce the volume by 40–60%. Each earthworm weighs about 0.5 to 0.6 g, eats waste equivalent to its body weight and produces cast equivalent to about 50% of the waste it consumes in a day.
These worm castings have been analyzed for chemical and biological properties. Their moisture content ranges between 32 and 66% and the pH is round 7.0. They also contain higher percentage (nearly twofold) of both macro and micronutrients than the garden compost.
Worm casts contain five times more nitrogen, seven times more phosphorus, and 11 times more potassium than ordinary soil, the main minerals needed for plant growth.
Materials Needed For Vericomposting
The materials required for vermicomposting include: a container with holes at the bottom (made of wood or plastic), worms (500-2,000 redworms), bedding (shredded newspaper, corrugated cardboard and/or leaves), and food waste (fruit and vegetable waste).
Worms basically eat food scraps such as fruit and vegetable peels, pulverized egg shells, tea bags and coffee grounds. Avoid adding compost meats, dairy products, oily foods or grains. Also glass, plastic or tin foil shouldn’t be added.
Advantages to Composting With Worms
The great advantage of worm composting is that this can be done indoors and outdoors, thus allowing year round composting. Containing water-soluble nutrients and bacteria, vermicompost is an excellent, nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner.
It plays a major role in improving growth and yield of different field crops, vegetables, flowers and fruit crops.
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