|By Pinoy Farmer | February 7, 2008|
Diagram of a household-scale worm composting bin
It defines the thrilling potential for waste reduction, fertilizer production, as well as an assortment of possible uses for the future. Vermiculture enhances the growth of plants that provide food along with producing prosperous and financially rewarding fertilizer.
The earthworm is one of nature’s pinnacle “soil scientists.” Earthworms are liberated, cost effective farm relief. The worms are accountable for a variety of elements including turning common soil into superior quality. Worms facilitate the amount of air and water that travels into soil. They break down organic matter and when they eat, they leave behind castings that are an exceptionally valuable type of fertilizer.
Charles Darwin’s primal struggle to survive and reproduce entailed the terminal disappearance called extinction (extinction being the death of the species and so the death of deaths). Darwin was haunted by irredeemable loss and studied the benefits of worms over one hundred years ago. Today, his foresight on the topic of Vermiculture (worms) has influenced the profit margin for many farmers across the country.
The art of composting has been part of our global culture since ancient times. The basic principles are quite simple, and adhering to them will result in an efficient and successful outcome. Studies have shown that home composting can divert an average of 700 lbs. of material per household per year from the waste stream. Municipal composting carries a greater environmental cost, but not nearly as high as if leaf and yard waste are disposed of by conventional means.
Today there are several different reasons why composting remains an invaluable practice. Yard and food wastes make up approximately 30% of the waste stream in the Philippines. Composting most of these waste streams would reduce the amount of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) requiring disposal by almost one fourth, while at the same time provide a nutrient-rich soil amendment. Compost added to gardens improves soil structure, texture, aeration, and water retention.
When mixed with compost, clay soils are lightened, and sandy soils retain water better. Mixing compost with soil also contributes to erosion control, soil fertility, proper pH balance, and healthy root development in plants.
The standard means of disposal for most yard and food waste include landfilling and incineration. These practices are not as environmentally or economically sound as composting. Yard waste which is landfilled breaks down very slowly due to the lack of oxygen. As it decomposes, it produces methane gas and acidic leachate, which are both environmental problems
Vermicomposting is the easiest way to recycle food wastes and is ideal for people who do not have an outdoor compost pile. Composting with worms avoids the needless disposal of vegetative food wastes and enjoy the benefits of a high quality compost. It is done with “redworms” (Eisenia fetida) who are happiest at temperatures between 50o and 70o F and can be kept indoors at home, school, or the office. Worms process food quickly and transform food wastes into nutrient-rich “castings.”
The worms will gradually reproduce or die according to the amount of food they receive. A sudden addition of a large amount of food waste may attract fruit flies, so increases should be made gradually.
Vermiculture is easy to practice, and uses only indigenous worms. The farmer rears them in pits 3m long, 1m wide and 1m deep, which can be easily dug with family labor. At the bottom of the pits, broken bits of earthen pots and broken bricks are laid to provide adequate drainage. Over that a 2.5cm layer of soil is spread and spats of fresh cowdung sprinkled. About 500 earthworms (all collected locally) may then be introduced in the pit, and covered with a thin layer of rice straw. Water should be splashed evenly over the last layer, and the pit covered with coconut fronds to protect the worms from sun and predatory birds.
“We recommend a composite culture of worms, which include burrowing types, surface feeders and column feeders. They do not compete with each other for food, and water, but on the contrary they are complimentary in nature” explains Dr. Ismail.
After an incubation period of 30 days, when the worms should have multiplied several fold, the farmers can start charging the pits with all kinds of organic residues. Each time a layer of 5 cm can be added and, after spreading them evenly, a thin layer of soil should be used to cover the organic residues. The pits can be charged once in three days till the level reaches to just a few centimeters from the top. Regular watering should be done to keep the right amount of moisture in the pits. In another 90 days, the worms would have done their job well, as indicated by the earthworm castings on the topmost layer of the bed.
Farmers can collect the vermi-compost by digging out all the material from the pit. They should keep the material in a heap in the sun so that all the worms move down to the cool base of the heap. The farmers can then remove the top portions safely, powder the compost and sieve before applying to the fields. The worms collected at the base can be used for inoculating new vermi-composting pits. The quality of vermi-compost is far superior to other composts in terms of nutrients and other plant growth promoting substances.