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Updated: Feb. 2012 (New additions on health benefits of Organic Foods)
The Rationale
The ‘Green Revolution’ of the 1950’ 60’s driven by the widespread use of costly
‘AGROCHEMICALS’ boosted ...
With their continued application the ‘organic nitrogen’ & other nutrients in compost tends to be
released at constant ...
Exchangeable phosphorus (P) measured isotopically was three (3) times greater in worms
vermicasts than in the underlyi...
b). High Level of Beneficial and Biologically Active Soil Microorganisms
Our works done in India found that the total ...
Table-2: The Virtues of Organic Fertilizers Over Chemical Fertilizers
water) and is rich in amino acids, vitamins, nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, magnesium,
zinc, calcium, iron and co...
Such beneficial microbes are also found in other composts too but the earthworms
vermicompost have much more and in di...
Vermicompost Vs. Chemical Fertilizers
Growth of Corn Plants After 12 Weeks
(A) - Control Av. Growth 46 cm
(B) - EARTHW...
Vermicompost Vs. Conventional Compost
Growth of Corn Plants after 6 Weeks
Growth of wheat crops on vermicompost, chemical fertilizers, composted cow manure
(from market)
(A). Chemical...
c). Potted Tomato Plants (Griffith University, Australia, 2010)
Photo showing growth and development of tomat...
secreted by live earthworms. Very disappointing was the results of composted cow manure
obtained from the market. It ...
Table –6: Growth Impacts of Vermicompost, Worms With Vermicompost
Vis-a-vis Chemical Fertilizer On Growth & Developme...
yield. This is because they contain ‘high nutrients with ‘humic acids and growth hormones’.
Once the ‘natural fertili...
Tomato Excellent
Carrot Excellent
Pumpkin Excellent
Cucumber Very Good
5). FRUITS 2 – 3 Kg / Plant
Grapes Excellent
beneficial for human health. They are being classified as ‘PROTECTIVE or MEDICA-FOODS’
which can help prevent several...
since 2002 on vermicompost. The quantity and quality of the apple fruits have increased
significantly with shelf life...
weight every day. What is more important is that each worm ‘eat the composted material’ at
least 8 times leaving the ...
2. Sensitive to Light, Touch & Dryness
Earthworms are very sensitive to touch, light and dryness. They tend to migrat...
Table - 9
C/N Ratio & Degradability Potential of Some Organic Materials Used for Composting
Organic General C/N Nitro...
3). VERMICOMPOSTING BED is prepared by placing about 3-4” thick layer of SOIL at
the bottom followed by week old CATT...
found to yield most nutritive vermicompost when composted by Eisinea fetida. Next are the
‘farm and food wastes’ whic...
(N.B. My own experience is that even if the worms do not survive in the vermicomposted bed
due to any reason vermicom...
everyday, 64 million worms (weighing 64 tons) would consume 64 tons of waste everyday
and produce 30-32 tons of vermi...
While vermicompost production & use is an ‘environmentally friendly’ practices (salvaging
WASTE while converting them...
‘Nobody and nothing can be compared with earthworms and their positive influence on the
whole living Nature. They cre...
UNSW, ROU (2002): Best Practice Guidelines to Managing On-Site Vermiculture
Technologies; University of New South Wal...
4). Griffith University, Nathan Campus, Brisbane (Dr. Rajiv K. Sinha); rajivksinha@hotmai...
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Miracle that the Earthworms and its Products Can Do For the Economic Prosperity of the Farmers


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Miracle that the Earthworms and its Products Can Do For the Economic Prosperity of the Farmers

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Miracle that the Earthworms and its Products Can Do For the Economic Prosperity of the Farmers

  1. 1. -1- Updated: Feb. 2012 (New additions on health benefits of Organic Foods) FARMERS MANUAL on ‘ORGANIC FARMING’ by EARTHWORMS (Charles Darwin’s Friends of Farmers) Miracle that the Earthworms & its Products (Vermicompost & Vermiwash) Can Do For the Economic Prosperity of the Farmers, Ecological Security of the Nation While Producing Nutritive & Health Protective ‘Organic Foods’ for the Society (Dr. Sinha with his vermiculture team at Griffith University, Australia) More INFO Rajiv K. Sinha (; Adjunct Senior Lecturer Griffith University, School of Environmental Engineering (Vermiculture Unit), Nathan Campus, Brisbane Queensland - 4111 AUSTRALIA
  2. 2. -2- The Rationale The ‘Green Revolution’ of the 1950’ 60’s driven by the widespread use of costly ‘AGROCHEMICALS’ boosted food production - but at the cost of society and environment. Consumption of ‘chemically grown food’ have adversely affected human health. Heavy use of CHEMICAL FERTILIZERS destroyed the natural physical, chemical & the biological properties of the soil which became ‘addicted’ over the years and still higher doses are now required to maintain the productivity of the previous years thus escalating the cost of food production. It virtually resulted into ‘biological droughts’ (severe decline in beneficial soil microbes and earthworms which help to renew the natural fertility of soil) in farm soils in the regions of green revolution in world. Higher uses of agro-chemicals also demands high use of water for irrigation putting severe stress on ground and surface waters. Continued application of CHEMICAL PESTICIDES induced ‘biological resistance’ in crop pests and diseases and lograthmatically much higher doses are now required to eradicate them. Farmers all over the world are desperately looking for an ‘economically viable, environmentally sustainable & socially acceptable’ alternative to the destructive agro-chemicals. The traditional concept of vermicomposting of ‘farm wastes’ and using the vermicompost in farm production are being scientifically revived for vermicomposting variety of organic wastes from municipal and industrial streams and using the products (vermicompost & vermiwash) as a ‘sustainable alternative’ to the ‘destructive agro-chemicals’. Earthworm participation enhances composting of waste organics from 60 to 80 %, also ‘disinfect’ and ‘detoxify’ the compost. Vermicompost is highly nutritive ‘organic fertilizer’ rich in NPK, humic acids, micronutrients, beneficial soil microbes and also contain plant growth hormones – auxins, gibberlins and cytokinins. It has great ‘moisture retaining’ capacity & significantly reduces the need of ‘water for irrigation’ by 30-40 %. Studies indicate that EARTHWORMS and VERMICOMPOST are ‘extraordinary powerful growth promoters’ in crops (5-7 times more than ordinary compost & significantly higher over chemical fertilizers) while also repelling crop pests and suppressing diseases, protecting the soil, restoring and improving its natural fertility and producing ‘SAFE ORGANIC, NUTRITIOUS & HEALTH PROTECTIVE (against cancers & heart diseases) FOODS’ for society at a much economical cost (at least 50 % less) as compared to the costly agrochemicals whose costs & doses of application continues to rise. Research at CSIRO, Australia shows that earthworms lift the ‘protein value’ of the wheat grains by 12 %. There is also significant rise in the value of ANTIOXIDANTS in fruits & vegetables grown organically especially on vermicompost. Researches indicate that in the 1st year of farming the results may not be very encouraging as the soil’s natural fertility is badly depleted due to continued use of chemical fertilizers over the years. It takes some time to restore fertility and from the 2 nd year onward the production overtakes that of chemical fertilizers. Vermiculture can bring ‘economic prosperity’ for the farmers with ‘ecological security’ of the farmlands & ‘health security’ for the people. A 2nd GREEN REVOLUTION is on, and this time driven by Charles Darwin’s ‘children & friends of farmers’ – the EARTHWORMS – the miracle of nature & savior of mankind. 1). Introduction A revolution is unfolding in vermiculture studies (rearing of useful waste eater earthworms) for composting variety of organic wastes from municipal, agricultural and industrial streams more scientifically into a highly nutritive ‘organic fertilizer’ (vermicompost) and using it for production of ‘safe organic food’ with significantly ‘low’ or ‘no’ dependence on agrochemicals. Vermicompost is rich in HUMUS & work as a ‘slow-release fertilizer’. Vermiculture (Rearing of Useful Earthworms) Vermi-agroproduction of Crops Human Vermi-composting of Farm Waste (Organic Food) Sustainability (Organic Fertilizer) Cycle VERMICOMPOST
  3. 3. -3- With their continued application the ‘organic nitrogen’ & other nutrients in compost tends to be released at constant rate from the accumulated ‘humus’ and the net overall efficiency of NPK over a period of years is considerably greater than 50 % of that of chemical fertilizers. Availability of phosphorus is sometimes much greater. Earthworms have over 600 million years of experience in waste & land management, soil improvement & farm production. No wonder, Sir Charles Darwin called them as the ‘unheralded soldiers of mankind and farmer’s friend working day and night under the soil’. Value of earthworms in plant propagation was emphasized by the great Indian author Surpala in his epic ‘Vriksha-ayurveda’ (Science of Tree Growing) as early as in the 10th century A.D. He recommended to add earthworms in soil of pomogranate plants to obtain high quality fruits. 2). Earthworms Improves Total Physical, Chemical & Biological Quality of Soil Earthworms are regarded as ‘biological indicator’ of soil fertility. Significantly, the worms lead to total improvement in the quality of soil and land where they inhabit and also enhance total plant growth and crop productivity. Worms significantly contribute as ‘soil conditioner’ to improve the physical, chemical as well as the biological properties of the soil and its nutritive value. They swallow large amount of soil every day, grind them in their gizzard and digest them in their intestine with aid of enzymes and excrete out in the form of fine mucus coated ‘vermicastings’ which are rich in humus, NKP, micronutrients and beneficial soil microbes including the ‘nitrogen fixers’ and ‘mycorrhizal fungus’. The organic matter in the soil undergo ‘humification’ in the worm intestine. The colloidal humus acts as ‘slow release fertilizer’ in the soil. Humus is generally lacking in soils devoid of earthworms as it takes very long time for soil or any organic matter to decompose to form humus while earthworms secrete them in their excreta. Without humus plants cannot grow and survive. It is essential for root formation. In general a land inhabited and ploughed by earthworms for 3 years will become high yielding farmland. Earthworms loosen the soil as they move through it. Air and water can penetrate soil through earthworm tunnels. Earthworms climb up to the surface of soil to grab remnants of plants and feed in tunnels and thus fertilize all strata of soil. One square meter of healthy soil contains 1,000 earthworms. According to the estimate of an American researcher, 1,000,000 (one million) earthworms in a garden/farm plot provide the same benefit as three gardeners/farmers working 8 hours in shifts all year round, and moreover having 10 tons of manure applied in the plot. 3). Earthworms Significantly Improves Nitrogen (N) & Phosphorus (P) in Soil This is of great agronomic significance as nitrogen (N) & phosphorus (P) are often a ‘limiting factor’ in any farm soil. Nitrogen Contribution to Soil: Worms significantly contribute nitrogen (N) contents to soil by over 85%. Earthworms recycle nitrogen in the soil in very short time and the quantity recycled is significant ranging from 20 to 200 kg N/ha/year. After 28 weeks soil with living worms contained 75 ppm of nitrate nitrogen compared to the control soil without worms which contained 45 ppm. Worms also increase nitrogen levels in soil by adding their metabolic & excretory products (vermicast), mucus, body fluid, enzymes and decaying tissues of dead worms. They also contribute nitrogen indirectly through fragmentation of organic materials and grazing on soil microorganisms. Earthworm tissues contains about 7.9 % N on a dry weight basis. Living worms release nitrogen from their bodies and after death it is rapidly decomposed in about 4 days releasing all nitrogen into the soil. In a study with potted ryegrass, over 70 % of the N 15 added was incorporated into plant shoots after 16 days. Study found that 50% of the N in dead worm tissues was mineralized in 7 days while 70% in 10-20 days and the N was converted to NO3- N which is bio-available form on nitrogen to crop roots. The release of mineral N after death of earthworms could be significant since worm biomass can turn over up to 3 times a year in farm soil. Study estimated direct flux of nitrogen through earthworm biomass in farm soils ranging from 10-74 kg N/ha/year. In corn field mortality and decomposition of dead earthworms could contribute 23.5 kg N /ha/year. In case of inorganic fertilizer-treated farm soil it is only 15 .9 kg/ha/year. Phosphorus (P) Contribution to Soil: It is well established that worm casts are richer in ‘inorganic phosphorus compounds’ extractable in water than the surface soil ingested.
  4. 4. -4- Exchangeable phosphorus (P) measured isotopically was three (3) times greater in worms vermicasts than in the underlying soils. Passage of organic matter through the gut of worm results in phosphorus (P) converted to forms which are more bio-available to plants. This is done partly by worm’s gut enzyme ‘phosphatases’ and partly by the release of phosphate solubilizing microorganisms in the worm cast. 4). Earthworms Reduce Soil Salinity & Sodicity, Renew Soil Fertility and Improve Crop Productivity Farmers at Phaltan in Satara district of Maharashtra, India, applied live earthworms to their sugarcane crop grown on saline soils irrigated by saline ground water. The yield was 125 tones / hectare of sugarcane and there was marked improvement in soil chemistry. Within a year there was 37 % more nitrogen, 66 % more phosphates and 10 % more potash. The chloride content was less by 46 %. Another study in 2008 reported production of POTATO, SPINACH and TURNIP by application of vermicompost in a reclaimed sodic soil in India. The overall productivity of vegetable crops during the two years of trial was significantly greater in plots treated with vermicompost applied @ 6 tons/ha as compared to control. There was significant improvement in soil quality of plots amended with vermicompost @ 6 tons / ha - reduction of 73.68 in sodicity (ESP) and increase of 829.33 kg / ha in available nitrogen (N) contents. 5). Vermicompost : Miracle Farm Input Superior to Conventional Compost and Chemical Fertilizers Vermicompost is a highly nutritive ‘organic fertilizer’ rich in NKP (nitrogen 2 - 3 %, potassium 1.85 – 2.25 % and phosphorus 1.55 – 2.25 %), micronutrients, beneficial soil microbes like ‘nitrogen-fixing bacteria’ and ‘mycorrhizal fungi’ and are scientifically proving as ‘miracle growth promoters’. Some researchers have reported as high as 7.37 % nitrogen (N) and 19.58 % phosphorus as P2O5 in worms vermicast depending upon the substrates used for vermicomposting. Phosphatase activity is also very high in vermicast. Our works done in India showed that exchangeable potassium (K) was over 95 % higher in vermicompost. There are also good amount of calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg). Additionally, vermicompost contain enzymes like amylase, lipase, cellulase and chitinase, which continue to break down organic matter in the soil (to release the nutrients and make it available to the plant roots) even after they have been excreted. Vermicompost has very ‘high porosity’, ‘aeration’, ‘drainage’ and ‘water holding capacity’. It appears to retain more nutrients for longer period of time .There have been several reports that worm worked waste and their excretory products (vermicast) can induce excellent plant growth. a). High Levels of Bio-available Nutrients for Plants Earthworms mineralize the nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) in the compost to make it bio- available to plants as nutrients. It has been found that the vermicompost tends to be higher in ‘nitrates’, which is the more bio-available form of nitrogen for plants. What is more significant is that it is ‘organic nitrogen’ that do not accumulate in food products in a concentration that accumulates in food grown on chemical nitrogen (urea) posing health risk. They also found that vermicompost is rich in several other plant nutrients e.g. phosphorus (P), potassium (K), sulfur (S) and magnesium (Mg). We found that the NPK value of vermicompost processed by worms from the same feedstock (cattle dung) significantly increases by 3 to 4 times. It also enhances several micronutrients. Table- 1: NPK Value of Vermicompost Compared With Conventional Cattle Dung Compost Made from Cattle Dung Nutrients Cattle Dung Compost Vermicompost 1. N 0.4 - 1.0 % 2.5 - 3.0 % 2. P 0.4 - 0.8 % 1.8 - 2.9 % 3. K 0.8 - 1.2 % 1.4 - 2.0 % (N.B. NPK value of vermicompost can go much higher by 10-15 % depending upon the nature of organic wastes and limes that are added to the cattle dung).
  5. 5. -5- b). High Level of Beneficial and Biologically Active Soil Microorganisms Our works done in India found that the total bacterial count was more than 1010 / gm of vermicompost. It included Actinomycetes, Azotobacter, Rhizobium, Nitrobacter & Phosphate Solubilizing Bacteria ranges from 10 2 - 10 6 per gm of vermicompost c). Rich in Plant Growth Hormones : Ability to Stimulate Plant Growth Researches show that vermicompost further stimulates plant growth even when plants are already receiving ‘optimal nutrition’. It consistently improve seed germination, enhance seedling growth and development, and increase plant productivity much more than would be possible from the mere conversion of mineral nutrients into plant-available forms. This is because of plant growth hormones ‘AUXINS’ (for growth of stems & leaves), ‘CYTOKININS’ (for cell division) & ‘GIBBERLINS’ (flowering hormone) secreted by earthworms. d). Vermicompost is Free of Pathogens Vermicomposting of wastes leads to greater reduction of pathogens even after 3 months upon storage. Whereas, those subjected to only conventional thermophilic composting, retained higher levels of pathogens even after 3 months. This is because earthworms selectively feed on harmful pathogens and also kill them by their ceolomic fluid which has anti-pathogenic properties. e). Vermicompost is Free of Toxic Chemicals Studies have found that earthworms effectively bio-accumulate or biodegrade several organic and inorganic chemicals including ‘heavy metals’, ‘organochlorine pesticide’ and ‘polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons’ (PAHs) residues in the medium in which it inhabits. . f). Vermicompost Protects Plants Against Various Pests and Diseases There has been considerable evidence in recent years regarding the ability of vermicompost to protect plants against various pests and diseases either by suppressing or repelling them or by inducing biological resistance in plants to fight them or by killing them through pesticidal action. Our studies in India indicated that pesticide spray was significantly reduced by over 75 % where earthworms and vermicompost were used in farming. i). Ability to Induce Biological Resistance in Plants: Vermicompost contains some ‘antibiotics’ which help in increasing the ‘power of biological resistance’ among the crop plants against pest and diseases. The fungus actinomycetes also contributes in the process. ii). Ability to Repel Crop Pests: There seems to be strong evidence that worms varmicastings sometimes repel hard-bodied pests. Some researchers reports statistically significant decrease in arthropods (aphids, buds, mealy bug, spider mite) populations, and subsequent reduction in plant damage, in tomato, pepper, and cabbage trials with 20 % and 40 % vermicompost additions. George Hahn, doing commercial vermicomposting in California, U.S., claims that his product repels many different insect pests. iii). Ability to Suppress Plant Disease: Researchers in the U.S. have found that use of vermicompost in crops inhibited the soil-born fungal diseases. They also found significant suppression of plant-parasitic nematodes in field trials with pepper, tomatoes, strawberries and grapes. In all these experiments vermicompost applications suppressed the incidence of the disease significantly. They also found that the ability of pathogen suppression disappeared when the vermicompost was sterilized, convincingly indicating that the mechanism of disease suppression was biological and achieved by some beneficial microbes in vermicompost. g). Vermicompost Increase Water Holding Capacity of Soil Addition of vermicompost to soils increases water holding capacity, maintain evaporation losses to a minimum and works as a ‘good absorbent’ of atmospheric moisture due to the presence of colloidal materials – the ‘earthworm mucus’. The worm vermicast works as ‘micro-dams’ storing hygroscopic and gravitational water. The water stable aggregates of ‘polysaccharide gums’ produced by the bacteria inhabiting the intestine of earthworms increases the general entry of water into the soil and infiltration due to construction of cemented ‘macro-pores’. Increasing water holding capacity of soils prevents ‘soil erosion’ and improves productivity. There are reports that the earthworms increased the water holding capacity of New Zealand soils by 17 % and Indian soils by over 30 %.
  6. 6. -6- Table-2: The Virtues of Organic Fertilizers Over Chemical Fertilizers ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Virtues Chemical Fertilizer Organic Fertilizer (Vermicompost) 1). Primary Mostly contains only one (N in Urea) Contains all (NPK) in bio-available Macronutrients or at the most two (N & P in DAP) forms (NPK) in any one type of CF & that too in non-bioavailable forms which are converted into bio-available forms by soil microbes 2). Secondary Not available Bio-available in required amounts Nutrients (Ca, Mg, S) 3). Essential Micronutrients None All present (Zn, B, Mn, Fe, Cu, Mo & Cl) 4). Humus & Organic Carbon None Rich in humus & high organic carbon 5). Beneficial Soil NA (Adversely affects Rich in beneficial soil microbes Microbes (N2 fixing & beneficial microbes & phosphate solubilising etc.) impair natural soil fertility) * 6). Plant Growth Hormones None Rich in auxins, gibberlins & cytokinins 7). Moisture Holding Reduces moisture holding Increases moisture holding Properties capacities of soils capacities of soil 8). Impact on Soil pH Disturb soil pH causing Maintain proper balance alkalinity & acidity in soil pH 9). Effects on Creates imbalances in soil Help in balancing the soil EC Electrical Conductivity EC affecting nutrients & improve plant nutrients (EC) Of Soil assimilation by crop roots adsorption 10). Impact on Soil Damages soil texture & Improves soil texture Texture & Aeration reduce soil aeration for better aeration *Not found in any other organic fertilizer except vermicompost Table -3: Farm Soil Properties Under Organic Farming and Chemical Farming Chemical & Biological Organic Farming Chemical Farming Properties of Soil (Use of Vermicompost) (Use of Chemical Fertilizers) 1) Availability of nitrogen (kg/ha) 256.0 185.0 2) Availability of phosphorus (kg/ha) 50.5 28.5 3) Availability of potash (kg/ha) 489.5 426.5 4) Azatobacter (N2 fixing bacteria-1000/gm of soil) 11.7 0.8 5) Phospho bacteria (100,000/kg of soil) 8.8 3.2 6) Carbonic biomass (mg/kg of soil) 273.0 217.0 6). Vermiwash : The Nutritive Liquid Filtered Through Body of Worms Rich in Growth Promoting and Pesticidal Properties The brownish-red liquid which collects from all vermicomposting beds should be collected. This liquid partially comes from the body of earthworms (as worm’s body contain plenty of
  7. 7. -7- water) and is rich in amino acids, vitamins, nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, magnesium, zinc, calcium, iron and copper and some growth hormones like ‘auxins’, ‘cytokinins’. It also contains plenty of nitrogen fixing and phosphate solubilising bacteria (nitrosomonas, nitrobacter and actinomycetes). A miracle observation was made by an Australian resident vermicomposting food wastes that vermicompost & vermiwash has the capacity to revive even a dying plant. (Mr. Avnish Bhardwaj; More importantly this liquid contains beneficial microbes (chitin and cellulose degraders). They repel pests and suppress the disease causing bacteria, fungus and the soil nematodes. Chitin degraders digest pests and the cellulose degraders digest bacteria and fungi especially the nasty Phytopthora & Pythium which causes wide range of diseases in crops. Farmers from Bihar in North India reported growth promoting and pesticidal properties of this liquid. They used it on brinjal and tomato with excellent results. The plants were healthy and bore bigger fruits with unique shine over it. Spray of vermiwash effectively controlled all incidences of pests and diseases, significantly reduced the use of chemical pesticides and insecticides on vegetable crops and the products were significantly different from others with high market value. These farmers are using vermicompost and vermiwash in all their crops since last few years completely giving up the use of chemical fertilizers and using minimal pesticides. Experience of farmers practising vermiculture in agriculture in the US indicates that the vermiwash liquid can be made more effective as pest repellent and diseases suppressant if the numbers of the beneficial microbes (chitin & cellulose degraders) are increased in them. Under normal feed materials like cattle dung and food wastes usually 2-3 millions chitin degraders and 4-5 million cellulose degraders are formed in a given volume of vermiwash liquid but the threshold number required for effective action is about 10 millions. Number of chitin degraders can be increased by adding more chitins (shrimp or crab shells or melted cow hooves or horns) in the earthworms composting feed materials and cellulose degraders can be increased by adding paper or saw dust in the feed. If sugars are added to the vermiwash and fermented for some hours the number of chitin and cellulose degrader microbes can also multiply in several millions in short time. Both chitin & cellulose degraders are ‘engines of the soil’. (George Hahn; 7). Vermicompost Tea: An Effective Biopesticide George Hahn also reported that if the vermicompost is dissolved in water and made into solution called ‘vermicompost tea’ this liquid can also be used as spray for repelling pests and suppressing plant diseases. Vermicompost prepared by adding chitins and cellulosic materials in the feed can have high number of chitin & cellulose degraders in compost tea. This solution can also be fermented with sugars to multiply the numbers of pest & disease killer microbes (chitin & cellulose degraders) in millions and billions in short time. George got 9 billion in 24 hours. Hence with smaller amount of vermicompost farmers can make large volumes of bio-pesticides with very high number of pest and disease killer microbes. (George Hahn; Scientific Reason of Disease Suppression by Vermicompost, Vermiwash & Vermicompost Tea The scientific explanation of vermicompost and all other vermiproducts (vermiwash & vermicompost tea) of earthworms possessing plant disease suppressing/fighting properties are the high levels of agronomically ‘beneficial microbes’ including the chitin & cellulose degraders found in them. Some protect plants by out-competing plant pathogens for available food resources i.e. by starving them and also by blocking their access to plant roots by occupying all the available sites. They also use the pathogens as food for predation. Some secrete ‘antibodies’ and ‘hormones’ which inhibit the growth of plant pathogens. Some beneficial microbes activate a plant’s ‘defense mechanisms’ against diseases. This can include ‘thickening of the cell walls’ in plant roots and foliage to make it more difficult for pathogens such as fungi to get into plants. Some microbes (fungus actinomycetes) excreted by the earthworms in their vermicast produce chemicals that kill parasitic fungi causing crop diseases. Chitin degraders produce enzymes ‘chitinases’ which breaks down the chitin in the exoskeleton of pests and insects and kill them. Similarly, the cellulose degraders produce enzyme ‘cellulase’ which dissolves the cellulosic walls of pathogens (fungi & bacteria).
  8. 8. -8- Such beneficial microbes are also found in other composts too but the earthworms vermicompost have much more and in diverse forms. The earthworms host large number of beneficial microbes in their gut and proliferate them in billions & trillions in short time. 8). Some Studies on Growth Impacts of Worms & Vermicompost on Crops Several studies have reported amazing growth impacts of worms & vermicompost on crops. 1). Study in India found that earthworms & its vermicast improved the growth and yield of WHEAT by more than 40 %. Study at CSIRO Australia found that the earthworms increased growth of wheat crops by 39 %, grain yield by 35 %, lifted protein value of the grain by 12 % & also resisted crop diseases as compared to the control. The plants were grown in a ‘red- brown earth’ with poor nutritional status and 60 % moisture. 2). Study in India found that RICE CROPS receiving vermicompost @ 10,000 kg / ha were statistically at par with those receiving chemicals @ 200 kg / ha. There was greater population of nitrogen fixers, actinomycetes and mycorrhizal fungi in paddy fields inducing better nutrient uptake by crops and better growth in all vermicompost applied soils. Study from Philippines also reported that yield of grain in rice crops was 40 % higher with vermicompost. 3). Study on growth impacts of vermicompost on CORN crops found that there was 14 % increase in ear yield of corn crops applied with vermicompost @ 5 ton / ha as compared to inorganic fertilizers applied at normal recommended dose. 4). Study in Australia (1998) found that vermicompost boosted GRAPE yield by two-fold as compared to chemical fertilizers. Treated vines with vermicompost produced 23 % more grapes due to 18 % increase in bunch numbers. The yield in grapes was worth additional value of AU $ 3,400 / ha. Significantly, the yield was greater by 55 % when vermicompost applied soil was covered under mulch of straw and paper. Still more significant was that ‘single application’ of vermicompost had positive effects on yields of grapes for long 5 years. 5). Farmers in Sangli district of Maharashtra, India, grew grapes on ‘eroded wastelands’ and applied vermicasting @ 5 tons/ha. The GRAPE harvest was normal with improvement in quality, taste and shelf life. Soil analysis showed that within one year pH came down from 8.3 to 6.9 and the value of potash increased from 62.5 kg/ha to 800 kg/ha. There was also marked improvement in the nutritional quality of the grape fruits. 6). Study on CHERRIES (2005) found that vermicompost increased yield of CHERRIES for three (3) years after ‘single application’ inferring that the use of vermicompost in soil builds up fertility and restore its vitality for long time and its further use can be reduced to a minimum after some years of application in farms. 7). Study on STRAWBERRIES (2008) found that vermicompost increased the yield by 32.7 % and also drastically reduced the incidence of physiological disorders like albinism (16.1 4.5 %), fruit malformations (11.5 % 4 %), grey mould (10.4 % 2.1 %) and diseases like Botrytis rot. By suppressing the nutrient related disorders, vermicompost use increased the yield and quality of marketable strawberry fruits up to 58.6 % 8). In US Pecan Nut farmers are using vermicompost with dramatic results. Pecan is good source of protein and antioxidants and reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) in human blood. US provide 90 % of the world’s pecan nuts. 2 - 4 tons per acre of annual application of vermicompost showed 400 % increase in yield after 4 years. In the first year there was 150 % increase over the chemical fertilizers.(George Hahn, 2011; Our Experimental Studies on Earthworms & Vermicompost Promoting Excellent Crop Growth a). Potted Corn Crops (Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia, 2007)
  9. 9. -9- Vermicompost Vs. Chemical Fertilizers Growth of Corn Plants After 12 Weeks (A) - Control Av. Growth 46 cm (B) - EARTHWORMS Only (25 Nos.) Av. Growth 53 cm (C) - CHEMICAL FERTILIZERS (NPK) Av. Growth 87 cm (D) - VERMICOMPOST (200 gm) & EARTHWORMS (25 Nos. ) Av. Growth 90 cm Growth after 19 Weeks (A) – Control Av. Growth 53 cm (B) - EARTHWORMS Only (25 Nos.) Av. Growth 56 cm (C) - CHEMICAL FERTILIZERS Av. Growth 92 cm (D) - VERMICOMPOST (200 gm) & EARTHWORMS (25) Av. Growth 105 cm Important Observations & Findings Corn plants with earthworms and vermicompost in soil achieved very good growth and were better over chemical fertilizers. While the plants on chemicals grew only 5 cm (87 cm to 92 cm) in 7 weeks those on vermicompost grew by 15 cm (90 cm to 105 cm) within the same period. But plants with earthworms only (without feed) failed to perform. Most significant finding was that plants on vermicompost demanded less water for irrigation. A B C D A B C D
  10. 10. -10- Vermicompost Vs. Conventional Compost Growth of Corn Plants after 6 Weeks (A). EARTHWORMS & FEED MATERIALS Av. Growth 57 cm (B). CONVENTIONAL COMPOST (400 gm) Av. Growth 70 cm (C). VERMICOMPOST (400 gm) Av. Growth 104 cm Growth after 14 Weeks (A). EARTHWORMS & FEED Av. Growth 82 cm (B). CONVENTIONAL COMPOST Av. Growth 78 cm (C). VERMICOMPOST Av. Growth 135 cm Important Observations & Findings Corn plants with vermicompost in soil achieved rapid and excellent growth and attained maturity (appearance of male & female reproductive organs) very fast. Plants on conventional compost could not achieve maturity until the period of study (week 14). Plants with worms (provided with feed) performed better than those of conventional compost at the completion of study (Week 14). b). Potted Wheat Crops (Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia, 2008 - 09) This study was designed to compare the growth promoting abilities of vermicompost & earthworms with conventional compost & chemical fertilizers. A B C A B C
  11. 11. -11- A B C D Growth of wheat crops on vermicompost, chemical fertilizers, composted cow manure (from market) (A). Chemical Fertilizer (NPK + Mg+ S+Fe+B+Zn 5 gm x 3 times) Av. Growth 43 cm (B). Composted cow manure (500 gm) Av. Growth 32 cm (C). Control (No inputs) Av. Growth 26 cm (D). Vermicompost (500 gm) + Earthworms (25 Nos.) Av. Growth 47 cm A B C D Photo showing development of seed ears in wheat crops grown on - (A).Vermicompost & Worms; (B) Chemical Fertilizers; (C).Composted Cow Manure (D). Control Important Observations & Findings Wheat crops maintained very good growth on vermicompost & earthworms from the very beginning & achieved maturity in 14 weeks. The striking rates of seed germination were very high, nearly 48 hours (2 days) ahead of others and the numbers of seed germinated were also high by nearly 20 %. Plants were greener and healthier over others, with large numbers of tillers & long seed ears were formed at maturity. Seeds were healthy and nearly 35-40 % more as compared to plants on chemical fertilizers. The total growth performances of wheat crops (in terms of health, color and texture of shoots & leaves) on vermicompost & earthworms was significantly better over the chemical fertilizers. What they achieved in just 5 weeks, was achieved by others in 10 weeks. More significant was that the pot soil with vermicompost was very soft & porous and retained more moisture. Pot soil with chemicals were hard and demanded more water frequently
  12. 12. -12- c). Potted Tomato Plants (Griffith University, Australia, 2010) A B C D Photo showing growth and development of tomato plants in 10 weeks (A) Control (No Input) Av. Growth 60 cm (B) Chemical Fertilizer (5 gm, 3 times) Av. Growth 71 cm (C) Marketed organic manure (500 gm) Av. Growth 52 cm (D) Vermicompost (250 gm) Av. Growth 138 cm D). Potted Egg-Plants (Griffith University, Australia, 2010) A B C D Photo showing growth and development of egg-plants in 10 weeks. (A) Control (No Input) Av. Growth 25 cm. (B) Chemical Fertilizer (5 gm, 3 times) Av. Growth 48 cm. (C) Marketed organic manure (500 gm) Av. Growth 28 cm. (D) Vermicompost (250 gm) Av. Growth 83 cm. Important Observations & Findings about Tomato & Egg-Plants Tomato and egg-plants on vermicompost maintained very good growth from the very beginning. Number of flowers and fruits per plant were also significantly high as compared to those on agrochemicals and conventional compost. Presence of earthworms in soil made a significant difference in ‘flower and fruit formation’ in tomato & egg-plants. This was obviously due to more ‘growth & flowering hormones’ (auxins and gibberlins) available in the soil
  13. 13. -13- secreted by live earthworms. Very disappointing was the results of composted cow manure obtained from the market. It could not compete with vermicompost even when applied in ‘double dose’ (500 gm). e). Farmed Wheat Crops (India, 2007-08) We studied the agronomic impacts of vermicompost and compared it with cattle dung compost & chemical fertilizers in farm. Cattle dung compost was applied four (4) times more than that of vermicompost as it has much less NPK values as compared to vermicompost. Table – 4: Agronomic Impacts of Vermicompost, Cattle Dung Compost & Chemical Fertilizers in Exclusive Applications & In Combinations on Farmed Wheat Crops ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Treatment Input / Hectare Yield / Hectare 1). CONTROL (No Input) 15.2 Q / ha 2). Vemicompost (VC) 25 Quintal VC / ha 40.1 Q / ha 3). Cattle Dung Compost (CDC) 100 Quintal CDC / ha 33.2 Q / ha 4). Chemical Fertilizers (CF) NPK (120:60:40) kg / ha 34.2 Q / ha 5). CF + VC NPK (120:60:40) kg / ha + 25 Q VC / ha 43.8 Q / ha 6). CF + CDC NPK (120:60:40) kg / ha + 100 Q CDC / ha 41.3 Q / ha ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Study: By Dr. R.K. Sohane, Bihar (India); Exclusive use of VC by Dr. R.K. Sinha (Australia). Key: N = Urea; P = Phosphate; K = Potash (In Kg / ha); Important Observations & Findings Vermicompost boosted wheat yield by 18 % higher over the chemical fertilizers in the 2 nd year of farming after the natural fertility of the soil (impaired due to long use of chemical fertilizers since the ‘green revolution’ of 1960s) was restored in the 1st year. The yield was much higher in subsequent years. Application of chemical fertilizers in combination with vermicompost though increased yield by about 9 %, it is not of much significance, as the cost of production goes much higher with the use of chemicals. Application of vermicompost had other agronomic benefits. It significantly reduced the demand for irrigation by nearly 30-40 %. Test results indicated better availability of essential micronutrients and useful microbes in vermicompost applied soils. Most remarkable observation was significantly less incidence of pests and disease attacks in vermicompost applied crops. f). Potted Vegetable Crops (University Of Rajasthan, Jaipur, India, 1998-2000). Table- 5: Growth Impacts of Vermicompost, Earthworms & Vermicompost Vis-a-vis Chemical Fertilizer On Growth & Development of Egg Plants Treatments Av. Veget. Growth (Inches) Av. No. of Fruits/ Plant Av. Wt. of Fruits/ Plant Total No. of Fruits Max. Wt. of One Fruit 1. Earthworms (50 Nos.) + VC * 28 20 675 gm 100 900 gm 2. Vermicompost (250 gm) 23 15 525 gm 75 700 gm 3. Chemical Fertilizer (NPK) (Full dose) 18 14 500 gm 70 625 gm 4. CONTROL 16 10 425 gm 50 550 gm Key: N = (Urea) 1.40 gm; P (Phosphate) = 2.50 gm; K (Potash) = 1.04 gm. * VC (Vermicompost) = 250 gm Important Observations Potted egg-plants grown on vermicompost (with live worms in soil) bored on average 20 fruits / plant with average weight being 675 gm. Whereas, those grown on chemical fertilizers (NPK) bored only 14 fruits / plant with average weight being only 500 gm. Total numbers of fruits obtained from vermicompost applied plants were 100 with maximum weight being 900 gm while those on chemicals were 70 fruits and 625 gm as maximum weight of a fruit. Live worms with vermicompost made the big difference in fruit formation.
  14. 14. -14- Table –6: Growth Impacts of Vermicompost, Worms With Vermicompost Vis-a-vis Chemical Fertilizer On Growth & Development of Okra Plants Treatment Av. Veget. Growth (Inches) Av. No. of Fruits/ Plant Av. Wt. of Fruits/ Plant Total No. of Fruits Max. Wt. of One Fruit 1. Earthworms (50 Nos.) + VC* 39.4 45 48 gm 225 70 gm 2. Vermicompost (250 gm) 29.6 36 42 gm 180 62 gm 3. Chemical Fertilizer (NPK) (Full dose) 29.1 24 40 gm 125 48 gm 4. CONTROL 25.6 22 32 gm 110 43 gm Key: N = (Urea) 1.40 gm; P (Phosphate) = 2.50 gm; K (Potash) = 1.04 gm; VC = Vermicomost (250 gm). Important Findings Potted okra plants grown on vermicompost (with live worms in soil) bored on average 45 fruits / plant with average weight being 48 gm. Whereas, those grown on chemical fertilizers (NPK) bored only 24 fruits / plant with average weight being only 40 gm. Total numbers of fruits obtained from vermicompost applied plants were 225 with maximum weight being 70 gm while those on chemicals were 125 fruits and 48 gm as maximum weight of a fruit. Again the live worms with vermicompost made the big difference in fruit formation. 9). AMOUNT & APPLICATION TIME OF VERMICOMPOST IN CROPS Vermicompost can be used in any crop and in any amount as it is ‘completely safe’ for soils and crops in all amounts. Study made by Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture, Hyderabad, India have provided a report which is given in Table 5 - Table - 7 Recommended Quantity and Time of Application of Vermicompost in Some Crops Crop Quantity Time of Application 1). Rice (Paddy) 1 ton / acre After Transplanting 2). Maize (Corn) 1 ton / acre After Ploughing 3). Wheat 1 ton / acre After Ploughing 4). Sugarcane 1.5 ton / acre After Ploughing 5). Groundnut 0.5 ton / acre After Ploughing 6). Sunflower 1.5 ton / acre After Ploughing 7). Chilli 1 ton / acre After Ploughing 8). Potato 1 – 1.5 ton / acre After Ploughing 9). Tomato 1 – 1.5 ton / acre After Ploughing 10). Brinjal 1 – 1.5 ton / acre After Ploughing 11). Okra 1 – 1.5 ton / acre After Ploughing 12). Cauliflowers 1 – 1.5 ton / acre After Ploughing 13). Cabbage 1 – 1.5 ton / acre After Ploughing 14). Garlic 1 – 1.5 ton / acre After Ploughing 15). Onion 1 – 1.5 ton / acre After Ploughing 16). Grape (Vineyards) 1 ton / acre Summer time 17). Citrus 2 kg / tree At planting time & before flowering 18). Pomegranate 2 kg / tree At planting time & before flowering 19). Guava 2 kg / tree At planting time & before flowering 20). Mango & Coconut 2 kg / tree At planting time 5 kg / tree 1-5 years old trees 10 kg / tree 6-9 years old trees 20 kg / tree Trees older than 10 years 21). Cotton 1 ton / acre After Ploughing Source: CRIDA, Hyderabad, India Several studies indicate that vermicompost is required in much ‘lesser amount’ as compared to all other bulky organic fertilizers e.g. composted cattle dung (cow, horse & pig manures and sheep & goat droppings), composted MSW & plant residues to promote optimal growth and
  15. 15. -15- yield. This is because they contain ‘high nutrients with ‘humic acids and growth hormones’. Once the ‘natural fertility’ of soil is restored in the 1st & 2nd years of application, further use rapidly ‘enhance’ the fertility levels and subsequently much lesser amount of vermicompost is required to maintain the same levels of productivity. (This is just contrary to the use of chemical fertilizers whose doses have to be increased over the years to maintain the productivity of the previous years). 10). Important Feedbacks from Indian Farmers Practicing Vermiculture A ‘VERMICULTURE MOVEMENT’ is going on in India with multiple objectives of environmental restoration (waste management & farm soil regeneration) and socio-economic development (poverty eradication) programs in villages. Under a collaborative (Australia- India) research program I am working with some Indian agricultural scientists to generate awareness & interest among Indian farmers about social, economic & environmental benefits of vermiculture. We interviewed some farmers practicing vermiculture. Most of them asserted to have switched over to ORGANIC FARMING by vermicompost completely eliminating the use of chemical fertilizers in the last 3 - 4 years with very encouraging results, benefiting both, their economy (reduced cost of inputs and significantly high outputs from good crop production, sale of vermicompost and worms) and the environment (reduced use of chemical pesticides, improved physical, chemical & biological properties of farm soil). Some of them asserted to have harvested three (3) different crops in a year (reaping 2-3 times more harvest) due to their rapid growth & maturity, and reduced harvest cycle. Several villages have become ‘BIO-VILLAGE’ completely giving up chemical agriculture. Some of the important FEED-BACK by farmers about use of VERMICOMPOST were - 1). Reduced use of ‘water for irrigation’ as application of vermicompost over successive years improved the ‘moisture holding capacity’ of the soil; 2). Reduced ‘pest attack’ (by at least 75 %) in crops applied with vermicompost. Cauliflowers grown on vermicompost remains 95 % ‘disease free’. Late Blight (fungal disease) in banana was almost reduced by over 95 %; 3). Reduced ‘termite attack’ in farm soil especially where worms were in good population; 4). Reduced ‘weed growth’; 5). Faster rate of ‘seed germination’ and rapid seedlings growth and development; 6). Greater numbers of fruits per plant (in vegetable crops) and greater numbers of seeds per ear (in cereal crops), heavier in weight – better in both, quantity and quality as compared to those grown on chemicals; 7). Fruits and vegetables had ‘better taste’ and texture and could be safely stored up to 6-7 days, while those grown on chemicals could be kept at the most for 2-3 days; 8). Wheat production increased from 35 to 40 %; 9). Fodder growth was increased by nearly 50 % @ 30 to 40 quintal / hectare; 10). Flower production (commercial floriculture) was increased by 30 – 50 % @ 15-20 quintal / hectare. Flower blooms were more colorful and bigger in size; Table-8: Farmers Opinion on the Impact of Vermicompost on Productivity of Crops CROPS Doses of Vermicompost Applied Growth Impacts 1). CEREALS 2 Tons /Acre Oats Very Good Rice Excellent Maize Very Good 2). PULSES 2 Tons / Acre Garden Pea Very Good Black Gram Very Good 3). Oil Seeds 3 – 5 Tons / Acre Sun Flower Very Good Ground Nut Very Good Soybean Very Good Mustard Very Good 4). VEGETABLES 4 – 6 Tons / Acre Cabbage Excellent Potato Excellent
  16. 16. -16- Tomato Excellent Carrot Excellent Pumpkin Excellent Cucumber Very Good 5). FRUITS 2 – 3 Kg / Plant Grapes Excellent Banana Excellent Water-melon Excellent Custard apple Excellent Pomegranate Excellent Mango Very Good 6). ORNAMENTALS 4 Tons / Acre Roses Excellent Chrysanthemum Excellent Marigold Excellent 7). OTHER CROPS 5 Tons / Acre Sugarcane Excellent Cotton Very Good Tea Good Coffee Very Good Source: (Dr. Radha Kale; Farmer’s report about disease resistance in cauliflower induced by vermicompost (Bhagat Ji, Hazipur, Bihar, India. December 2008) A B Cauliflower grown on Cauliflower grown on Chemical Fertilizers Vermicompost (Highly Susceptible to Diseases) (Resistant to Diseases) 11). The Nutritive & Health Protective Values of Food Crops Grown Organically : The Medica-Foods Higher Protein: Studies made at CSIRO (Council of Scientific & Industrial Research Organization), Australia found that the presence of earthworms (Aporrectodea trapezoids) in soil lifted protein value of the grain of wheat crops (Triticum aestivum) by 12 %. Higher in Antioxidants, Vitamins & Minerals & Protection against Cancers & Heart Diseases: Organically grown fruits & vegetables especially on vermicompost have been found to be highly nutritious, rich in ‘ANTIOXIDANTS’, vitamins & minerals and can be highly
  17. 17. -17- beneficial for human health. They are being classified as ‘PROTECTIVE or MEDICA-FOODS’ which can help prevent several human diseases (even CANCERS & HEART DISEASES which is threatening the modern human society) if consumed regularly in daily diets. Organic foods have elevated antioxidants levels in about 85 % of the cases studied with average levels being 30 % higher compared to chemically grown foods. Flavonoids are up to 10 times higher and with very high ‘anti-mutagenic’ & ‘anti-proliferative’ activities. This is of great significance in preventing some deadly diseases like cancers. Antioxidants (FLAVONOIDS, VITAMINS C & E, SELENIUM & CAROTENOIDS) in foods interfere with the development of CANCERS (breast, colon, lung & prostrate) and cardiac conditions leading to ‘clogging of arteries’. Antioxidant phenolic compounds are ‘anti- proliferative’ and can prevent or slow tumour progression. Organic foods also have 50 % lower ‘NITRATES’ (93 % lower in organic spinach) as compared to chemically grown ones. This is linked with ‘gastric cancer’ (as it can be transformed into nitrosamines in stomach) and ‘infantile methaemoglobinaemia (blue baby syndrome). Some fruits and vegetables grown organically, especially by VERMICOMPOST show significantly higher ANTIOXIDANTS. 1). TOMATO: Tomato is one of the most ‘protective food’ due to excellent source of balanced mixture of minerals and antioxidants, including vitamin C, total carotene and lycopene. Tomatoes grown organically especially on vermicompost have significantly higher total antioxidants, total CAROTENE, vitamin C, iron (Fe), zinc (Zn), potassium (K), crude fibre and antioxidant ‘LYCOPENE’ which has preventive effects on ‘PROSTATE CANCER’. It also protects from CARDIOVASCULAR diseases. Interestingly, protective effect is increased by 4 times in cooked & processed tomatoes e.g. sauce, paste, puree & ketchup. Cooked tomatoes (for 30 minutes) have significantly higher levels of ‘lycopene’ than raw tomatoes. It also registered significantly higher ‘shelf-life’ when stored at room temperature. 2). CARROT: It had very high levels of ‘BETA-CAROTENE’ an antioxidant which prevents oxidation of LDLs (bad cholesterol) that leads to clogging of arteries and heart problems when oxidised. Only foods like carrots offer this tremendous health protection and cooked carrots have twice the antioxidant power of raw carrots. Antioxidant ‘FALCARINOL’ in carrot satisfies six criteria suggested for food intake of antioxidants to reduce the risk of several types of cancers. 3). BROCCOLI: It has a powerful antioxidant ‘GLUCORAPHANIN’ which has been shown to fight cancer and has preventive effects against ‘COLON CANCER. Its level increases when grown organically. Unlike other antioxidants that attack a single free radical and then lose their power, ‘glucoraphanin’ boosts the body’s entire ‘antioxidant defence system’ which can disarm lots of free radicals. It may also cut the risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases and stroke. 4). BERRIES: All berries from ‘cranberries’ to ‘strawberries’, ‘blackberries’ and ‘blueberries’ are rich in antioxidants and their contents increase significantly when grown organically on vermicompost. Organically grown STRAWBERRIES have also been shown to have higher ‘anti-proliferative’ activity against ‘COLON CANCER’ & ‘BREAST CANCER’ cells. CRANBERRIES have been shown to prevent a number of human cancers & also ‘ATHEROSCLEROSIS’ (heart diseases). 5). WATERMELON: It is also rich source of antioxidant ‘LYCOPENE’ which has preventive and protective actions against PROSTRATE CANCERS & CARDIOVASCULAR diseases. Lycopene contents increases high in organically grown crops by vermicompost. 6). APPLES: Fruit richest in antioxidant ‘FLAVONOIDS’ (Quercetin) shows still higher flavonoid contents when grown organically. It also prevents oxidation of LDLs (bad cholesterol) that leads to clogging of arteries. It endorsed the old saying ‘an apple a day keeps the doctors away’. Unfortunately, chemically grown apples have been found to have significant ‘residual pesticides’ in their skin and below and has been rated at the top among the ‘dirty dozen’ fruits so far studied. Apple trees have to be sprayed with pesticides (containing some 36 chemicals) nearly 16 times for full protection from fruit development to maturation. Hence only the ‘organically grown apples’ can testify the old saying. Organic apples are being grown in India
  18. 18. -18- since 2002 on vermicompost. The quantity and quality of the apple fruits have increased significantly with shelf life. 12). COMMERCIAL VERMICOMPOSTING: A SUSTAINABLE ENTERPRISE It is like getting ‘gold from garbage’ or ‘converting waste into wealth’. Wastes Suitable for Large Scale Commercial Vermicomposting Municipal Organic Wastes 1). FOOD WASTE from homes (all raw and cooked kitchen waste- fruits and vegetables, grains & beans, coffee grounds, used tea leaves & bags, crushed egg shells) and restaurants; 2). GARDEN WASTES (DRY LEAVES & DRY GRASS CLIPPINGS) from homes and parks constitute an excellent feed stock for vermi-composting. Grass clippings (high carbon waste) require proper blending with nitrogenous wastes; 3). SEWAGE SLUDGE from the municipal wastewater also provide a good feedstock for the worms. Millions of tons of sludge from various wastewater treatment plants (municipal & industrial) are being generated every day in world. The worms digest the sludge and convert a good part of it into vermi-compost. The worms bio-accumulate any toxic ‘heavy metals’ present in the sludge & render them harmless by combining with special proteins or by changing their ionic states so that they become non-bioavailable for plant roots; 4). PAUNCH WASTE materials (gut contents of slaughtered ruminants) from abattoir also make good feedstock for earthworms. Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Wastes 1). FARM WASTES such as CROP RESIDUES, DRY LEAVES & GRASSES; 2). Livestock rearing waste such as CATTLE DUNG, PIG & CHICKEN EXCRETA MAKES EXCELLENT FEEDSTOCK FOR EARTHWORMS. CATTLE DUNG is most loved FOOD for earthworms and its use with any organic waste and in any vermicomposting process is very rewarding. Animal excreta containing excessive nitrogen component may require mixing of carbon rich bulking agents (straw, saw dust, dried leaves and grasses, shredded paper waste etc.) to maintain proper C/N ratio. Some Industrial Wastes Suitable for Commercial Vermi-composting Solid waste including the ‘wastewater sludge’ from paper pulp and cardboard industry, FOOD PROCESSING INDUSTRIES including BREWERY & DISTILLERY; VEGETABLE OIL FACTORY, POTATO & CORN CHIPS MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY, SUGARCANE INDUSTRY, aromatic oil extraction industry. Sericulture industry, logging and carpentry industry also offers excellent feed material for vermi-composting by earthworms. Scientists in India have successfully vermicomposted the ‘flyash’ from the coal-power plants which was considered to be a hazardous waste. Because of rich in nitrogen worms love to feed upon them too. Pond Weeds WATER HYACINTHS considered to be a noxious weed is a wonderful feed material for earthworms. The resulting vermicompost is rich in PHOSPHORUS as the weed contain more phosphorus. In fact all WEEDS (aquatic & terrestrial) can be vermicomposted. Key Considerations in Vermicomposting Vermicomposting by Earthworms : Rapid, Odorless and Efficient System Earthworm participation enhances composting of waste organics from 60 to 80 %. It also ‘disinfect’ and ‘detoxify’ the end-product. They promote the growth of ‘beneficial decomposer aerobic bacteria’ in the waste biomass and also act as an aerator, grinder, crusher, chemical degrader and a biological stimulator. As compared to the conventional composting systems, it takes nearly half the time to convert waste into vermicompost and the process becomes faster with time as the degrader worms and microbes multiply in number. Most earthworms consume, at the best, half their body weight of organics in the waste in a day. Eisenia fetida, Perionyx excavatus & Eudrilus euginae are considered to be versatile waste eaters and composters. E. fetida is reported to consume organic matter at the rate equal to their body
  19. 19. -19- weight every day. What is more important is that each worm ‘eat the composted material’ at least 8 times leaving the end product naturally rich in key minerals for plant growth. 1. Number & Biomass of Worms : Important for Rapid and Odourless Vermicomposting The number and quantity (biomass) of earthworms is ‘critical’ for good vermi-composting. Best results are obtained by using these species which are ‘voracious waste eater’ e.g. 1). Tiger Worm (Eisenia fetida) 2). Indian Blue Worm (Perionyx excavates) 3). African Night Crawler (Eudrilus euginae) 4). Red Worms (Lumbricus rubellus) Tiger worm eat waste equivalent to its own body weight everyday while the other two species eat waste half of its body weight every day. Given the optimum conditions of temperature and moisture, about 1 /2 kg of adult worms (approx. 1000) can vermicompost 10 kg of waste or 5 kg of worms (approx.10,000) can vermicompost 1 ton of waste in just 30 days. It is estimated that one (1) ton of earthworm biomass on an average contain one (1) million worms approximately. One million worms doubling every two months can become 64 million worms at the end of the year. Considering that each adult worm (particularly Eisinia fetida) consume waste organics equivalent to its own body weight everyday, 64 million worms (weighing 64 tons) would consume 64 tons of waste everyday and produce 30-32 tons of vermicompost per day at 40-50 % conversion rate.
  20. 20. -20- 2. Sensitive to Light, Touch & Dryness Earthworms are very sensitive to touch, light and dryness. They tend to migrate away from light. Cold (low temperature) is not a big problem for them as the heat (high temperature). Their activity is significantly slowed down in winter, but heat can kill them instantly. They temporarily migrate into deeper layers when subjected to too cold or too hot situations. 3. Adequate Moisture Moisture is also a critical factor in vermicomposting process as worm body need plenty of water for growth. Moisture content of 60 - 70 % of total weight of waste is considered to be ideal for vermicomposting. Moisture may be lost from the composting pile by biological oxidation, microbial and worm consumption and also by simple evaporation. Moisture content below 40 % dramatically decrease microbial activity. Moisture should be just enough to prevent free flow of water by gravity and form leachate. Excessive moisture (above 80 %) also impedes ‘oxygen transfer’ from the voids containing air to the microbial cells creating ‘anaerobic conditions’ leading to ‘rotting’ and not real composting. This also adversely affecting worm activity 4. Adequate Aeration Vermi-composting is an aerobic process and adequate flow of air in the waste biomass is essential for worm function. Worms breath through their skin and need plenty of oxygen in the surrounding areas. Although worms constantly aerate their habitat by ‘burrowing actions’, periodical turning of waste biomass can improve aeration and biodegradation. 5. Adequate Supply of Calcium (Ca) Calcium appears to be important mineral in worm biology (as calcarious tissues) and biodegradation activity. Although most organic waste contains calcium, it is important to add some additional sources of calcium for good vermicomposting. Researches indicated that addition of LIME POWDER significantly increases the NITROGEN content of the vermicompost. Egg shells are good source of natural calcium. Occasionally limestone powder should be added. 6. Size of Waste Particles The particle size of the waste material being biodegraded is critical because decomposition begins at the surface of the waste particles. Generally, the smaller particles have a more surface area per unit of weight and therefore allow more microbial activity leading to rapid decomposition. Smaller particles also allow oxygen to penetrate through the pile more evenly and be available to the microbes. But if all particles pack so closely so as to allow very little air to circulate it would retard composting. The particle size should be such that there is enough surface area for rapid microbial activity and also enough void space for air to circulate for microbial respiration. For optimum results the size of waste particles should be between 25 and 75 mm. 7. Carbon / Nitrogen (C/N) Ratio of Waste Material : Critical Factor in Vermicomposting Nitrogen is a ‘critical factor’ in any aerobic composting system. Microorganisms need nitrogen to produce new proteins efficiently and generate new cells to enhance decomposition process. The proper ratio of carbon to nitrogen (C/N) in waste material is critical for decomposition. Generally 25 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen by weight (C/N=25:1) is considered ideal for rapid composting. When the C/N ratio is too high (means high amount of carbon in composting material), such as leaves, grass clippings and newspapers, insufficient nitrogen slows decomposition. When the ratio is too low (means high amount of nitrogen in composting material), such as in food and garden waste, too much nitrogen leads to odor problem and ammonia gas (NH3) is given off. As the decomposition proceeds and more and more carbon are lost to the atmosphere as CO2, this ratio narrows. Woody materials, dry leaves, straw, paper and garden mulch have high carbon values. In general, coarse, dried out materials contain little nitrogen, green garden and kitchen (food) wastes and cattle dung contains high levels of nitrogen. Hence proper blending of carbon and nitrogen containing waste materials is essential for vermicomposting. High C/N ratio above 30:1 in waste biomass has been found to impair worm activity and vermi-composting (even normal aerobic or anaerobic composting). Although earthworms help to lower the C/N ratio of fresh organic waste, it is advisable to add nitrogen supplements such as cattle dung or pig and goat manure or even food waste (which are rich in nitrogen contents) when waste materials of higher C/N ratio exceeding 40:1 such as the cellulosic wastes (farm crop wastes) are used for vermi-composting.
  21. 21. -21- Table - 9 C/N Ratio & Degradability Potential of Some Organic Materials Used for Composting Organic General C/N Nitrogen Carbon Relative Wastes Characteristics Addition ? Addition ? Degradability 1). Food Waste High N & wet - No Yes High 2). Farm Waste (Veg.) High C & dry - Yes No Moderate 3). Leaf Litter Balanced C/N & dry - No No High 4). Grass Clippings High C & moist 20 Yes No Moderate 5). Newsprint Very High C & dry 983 Yes No Moderate 6). Wheat Straw High C & dry 128-150 Yes No High 7). Green Leaves High N & moist 40 - 80 No Yes High 8). Cow Manure High N & wet 18 No Yes High 9). Pig Manure High N & wet - No Yes Moderate 10). Poultry Manure High N & moist 15 No Yes High 11). Horse Manure Balanced C/N & wet 25 No May be High 12). Sawdust High C & dry 200 - 500 Yes No Moderate 13). Woodchips High C & dry - Yes No Poor 14). Sewage Sludge High N & wet 11 No Yes High 15). Mixed Slaughter High N & wet 2 No Yes High House Waste Commercial Production of Vermicompost : The Technique To vermicompost bigger amount of organic municipal and farm wastes every day, the most convenient and economical way is to - 1). Construct WINDROWS - TRENCHES 10’ (length) X 3’ (width) X 2’ (height) with bricks sidewalls and plastered base. They must be located in COOL & SHADED AREAS to prevent direct sunlight and rain. About ONE TON of composting materials can be vermicomposted in this size of trench every 2 months. 2). Level of the trench is kept above ground and with inclined base and an opening to facilitate drainage and collection of liquid (vermiwash) in underground pit at one end. One Ton Capacity Vermicomposting Trench (10’ x 3’ x 2’) With Pit to Collect Vermiwash 10’ 3’ 2’ Underground Pit for Collection of Vermiwash Inclined Base of Vermicomposting Bed
  22. 22. -22- 3). VERMICOMPOSTING BED is prepared by placing about 3-4” thick layer of SOIL at the bottom followed by week old CATTLE DUNG above that. It is suggested to release about 5 kg of composting earthworms (Approx. 10,000) in the BED SOIL at the start (in this size of trench of one ton capacity) and allowed to acclimatize for a week before CATTLE DUNG and other composting materials are placed over them. Some Important Suggestions a). DRY LEAVES & GRASSES, STRAWS & COCONUT COIR, FOOD WASTE & WASTE PAPERS can also be placed in between the DUNG LAYERS. b). CATTLE DUNG must be at least ONE WEEK OLD as fresh cattle dung emit methane and may harm the worms. Mixed species of composting worms are suggested. c). Even lesser amount of worms can initiate the composting process because with time the population of worms increase rapidly as the worms multiply fast doubling their number every 60-70 days. d). It can also be a wise idea to place a 1-2” thin layer of vermicompost (if available) over the soil layer in the composting bed. This would help rapid growth of worm population in the bed from the cocoons in the vermicompost. 4). Cattle dung and all other composting materials should be thoroughly spread over the bed and sprinkled with WATER to maintain the required MOISTURE level of 60-70 %. 5). GENTLE TURNING of vermicompost pile by forks is also advisable at regular intervals to keep it AERATED and prevent any odor problem. 6). Upon vermicomposting the volume of solid waste is significantly reduced from approx. 1 cum to 0.5 cum of vermicompost indicating 50 % conversion rate, the rest is converted into worm biomass. (N.B. Depending upon the quantity of composting materials available per day, several such trenches can be constructed in rows to be used one after the other in continuity. Within 70 - 80 days while the waste is converted into compost and excavated, the trenches become available for the next round of filling and composting. The trenches must be constructed under a shed to avoid direct sunlight and rainfall & the composting materials and worms must be covered with ‘jute bags’ and kept ‘wet’ all time by sprinkling water. The cost of materials (worms, vermicompost, bricks, cement etc.) is recovered in the very first year of composting). Vermicomposting Trenches (India) Factors Determining the Nutritional Quality of Vermicompost The nutritional quality of vermicompost is determined primarily by the type of the substrate (raw materials) and species of earthworms used for composting, along with microbial inoculants, liming, aeration, humidity, pH and temperature. The African Night Crawler (Eudrilus eugeniae), Indian Blue Worm (Perionyx excavatus) and the Tiger Worm (Eisenia fetida) have been found to be voracious waste eaters and also producers of nutritionally better quality of vermicompost. Among the waste products (substrates) ‘cattle dung’ has been
  23. 23. -23- found to yield most nutritive vermicompost when composted by Eisinea fetida. Next are the ‘farm and food wastes’ which also produce higher quality of vermicompost processed by either of these three species of worms. Study also found that the content of phosphorus (P) was significantly increased from 1.4 to 6.5-fold in different substrates processed by E. fetida. Irrespective to the substrates, vermicomposting always improve compost quality in terms of phosphorus status of the product. Vermicompost prepared from the noxious aquatic weed water hyacinth (Eichhornia cressipes) have been found to be very good source of phosphorus. Phosphorus was higher where pig manure was a substrate. Another study found that the level of phosphorus (P), potassium (K) and calcium (Ca) was maximum in vermicompost prepared from ‘vegetable wastes’ as compared to ‘agricultural residues’ processed by Eudrilus eugeniae than by Eisenia fetida. However, the level of nitrogen (N) was slightly higher in agro-residues either processed by E. ugeniae or E. fetida. Study found that application of lime @ 5 gm/kg of substrate and ‘microbial inoculation’ by suitable ‘cellulolytic’, ‘lignolytic’ and ‘N-fixing’ strains of microbes not only enhance the rate of vermicomposting but also results into nutritionally better vermicompost with greater enzymatic (phosphatase & urease) activities. Liming generally enhance earthworm activities as well as microbial population. Earthworms after ingesting microbes into its gut proliferate the population of microbes to several times in its excreta (vermicast). It is therefore advantageous to use beneficial microbial inoculants whose population is rapidly increased for rapid composting and also better compost quality. Table-10 : Nutrient Composition of Vermicompost Prepared from Vegetable Wastes and Agro Residues Processed by E. eugeniae and E. fetida (Value in % on 60 th Day) Substrates E. eugeniae E. fetida N K P Ca N K P Ca 1) Vegetable Wastes 1.10 0.98 0.58 1.44 1.06 0.92 0.52 1.32 2) Agro Residues 1.20 0.69 0.38 0.78 1.10 0.61 0.33 0.70 Harvesting Vermicompost and Segregation of Worms This is an important exercise in large-scale commercial vermicomposting especially if some hazardous organic wastes (e.g. sewage sludge) are used as feed material. Urban wastes may also carry heavy metals. The worms from the composted materials have to be separated (sieved) out as they may carry some bio-accumulated ‘heavy metals’ bound with special proteins (bio-transformed into harmless ions). The worms can be re-used for vermicomposting. Two methods are generally employed for worm separation. Method- 1 1). Sprinkling of water is stopped for about 2-3 weeks ahead to allow the top layers of composted pile to become semi-dry. This forces the worms to migrate down in bottom layers in search of moisture. 2). When the top layers of compost pile is semi-dried the unused feed materials (if any) from the top layers is scrapped out (manually or mechanically), removed and placed on the vermi- bed of another adjoining trench for vermicomposting. 3). The semi-dry composted materials from the top layers of the pile are then removed gently. This process of semi-drying of top layers of composted pile and removal of vermicompost is repeated for sometimes until most composted materials are removed and a small wet layer of compost containing most of the worms remain at the bottom after some times. 4). The excavated trench with most vermicompost removed and a good worm population still remaining at base can be re-used for another round of vermicomposting by placing composting materials on the top and beginning the cycle. Alternatively, the worms (if excess in numbers than required) can be separated out for sale by screening through a sieve. While the granular vermicompost fall through the mesh, the worms stay behind.
  24. 24. -24- (N.B. My own experience is that even if the worms do not survive in the vermicomposted bed due to any reason vermicomposting can still be continued from the vermicomposted material which contains plenty of worm ‘cocoons’. In that case a 2-3” layer of vermicompost must necessarily be laid over the soil layer during preparation of vermicomposting bed). Method - 2 1). The worms are given the temptation to migrate towards the surface in the upper layers of compost pile by placing some fresh feed materials and sprinkling water after a dry spell. Worms have tendency to move towards new feed materials especially if the food are loved ones like ‘semi-dry cattle dung’. 2). After 5 - 7 days when maximum population of worms accumulate around the feed materials, the top 3-4” layers of the waste pile with worms and feed materials is skimmed off mechanically by front-end loader or manually by spade. This separates out about 80 % of the worms from the pile. A second feeding and skimming can remove about 90 – 92 % of the worms leaving behind a thick layer of vermicompost below which is excavated, shade dried and stored. 3). The skimmed material containing worms and residual feed is sieved through net which allows the worms to fall through while the coarse feed materials are retained. The residual feed materials are placed back in the trench for vermicomposting. Problems Encountered During Vermi-composting & Their Solutions 1. Possibility of Unpleasant Odor in the Initial Stages Although the system is generally ‘odorless’ as the worms secrete ‘anti-pathogenic’ coelomic fluid, devour on harmful microbes and also continually aerate the waste pile by their burrowing actions. Sometimes due to OVERLOADING OF WASTE oxygen supply becomes insufficient leading to anaerobic conditions and odor problem. Sometimes LESSER NUMBER OF WORMS PER KG OF WASTE biomass also create odor problems. But as the worms grow rapidly in numbers it restores aerobic conditions and remove odor. It is always advisable to MANUALLY TURN & AERATE THE COMPOST PILE time to time and also add some carbon rich wastes (e.g. saw dust or dry grasses) to restore proper C/N ratio in waste materials because odor problem may occur due to excessive nitrogenous wastes in the pile. 2. Fruit Flies, Maggots and Mites Fresh food scraps attract fruit flies and mites that cause some nuisance. Sprinkling LIMESTONE POWDER drives them away. 3. Attack of Ants and Reptiles on Earthworms Earthworms are nutritive foods for ants & reptiles. To avoid their attack on worms a narrow channel filled with water is suggested to be made around all vermicomposting beds. 4. Emission of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) It must be known that all organic wastes composting systems emit powerful GHG than CO2 e.g. methane (22 times) and nitrous oxides (312 times). However, our studies shows that vermicomposting emits significantly less CH4 as the worms keeps the system aerated by burrowing actions and retains more nitrogen (N) in vermicompost rather than allowing them to escape as N2O. 11). Commercial Vermicomposting : A Good Business Opportunity, Can Create Self-Employment & Combat Poverty Earthworms not only converts ‘waste’ into ‘wealth’ it itself becomes a valuable asset as worm biomass. Large-scale production of miracle plant growth-promoter ‘vermicompost’ and protein rich ‘earthworms’ can be a good business opportunity today with awareness growing about use of these products in agriculture and other allied industries. They have enhanced the lives of poor in India and have generated self-employment opportunities for the unemployed. It has become good source of livelihood for many. In India people are earning from Rupees 5 to 8 lakhs (Approx. AU $ 15-20 thousands) every year from sale of both worms and their vermicompost to the farmers. It is estimated that one (1) ton of earthworm biomass on an average contain one (1) million worms approximately. One million worms doubling every two months can become 64 million worms at the end of the year. Considering that each adult worm (particularly E. fetida) consume waste organics equivalent to its own body weight
  25. 25. -25- everyday, 64 million worms (weighing 64 tons) would consume 64 tons of waste everyday and produce 30-32 tons of vermicompost per day at 40-50 % conversion rate. 12). Commercial Vermiculture : Potential to Create & Promote Allied Food & Pharmaceuticals Industries – Fishery, Poultry, Piggery & Dairy by Protein Rich Earthworms Biomass & Their Bioactive Compounds Vermiculture is a growing industry not only for managing waste and land very economically for promoting ‘sustainable agriculture’ by enhancing crop productivity both in quantity & quality at significantly lower cost than the costly agrochemicals. Large-scale vermi- composting of organic wastes would result into tons of earthworms biomass every year as under favorable conditions earthworms can ‘double’ their number at least every 60 – 70 days. Worms are rich in protein (65 %) with 70-80 % high quality essential amino acids ‘LYSINE’ & ‘METHIONINE’. It is a wonderful PRO-BIOTIC FEED FOR FISH, CATTLE & POULTRY INDUSTRY. Potentially large quantities of worm biomass will be available as ‘pro-biotic’ food for the cattle and fish farming, after the first year of composting. Farmers can start an allied industry/business of poultry farms and fish ponds by the byproducts of vermicomposting. Worms are also finding new use as a source of MODERN MEDICINES in the treatment of heart diseases and several types of cancers and in the making of ‘antibiotics’ from the anti- pathogenic ceolomic fluid. Worms are also finding new uses as raw materials in ‘DETERGENT’ & ‘LUBRICANT’ INDUSTRIES. 12). Economics of Food Production by Vermicompost Vis-à-vis Chemical Fertilizers : Win-Win Situation for Farmers, Government, Environment & Society A matter of considerable economic and environmental significance is that the ‘cost of food production’ by vermiculture will be significantly low over the years (as the natural fertility of the soil is built-up & use of vermicompost is reduced) by more than 60 - 70 % as compared to chemical fertilizers and the food produced will be a ‘safe chemical-free organic food’ for the society. There are reports that the yield, total production, income and profits from crops like MAIZE, WHEAT & PEAS increased significantly by 2 to 3 times by use of vermicompost as compared to the agrochemicals. It is a ‘win-win’ situation for both producers (farmers) and the consumers (feeders). The cost of production of vermicompost is simply insignificant as compared to chemical fertilizers. While the former is produced from ‘human waste’ - a raw material which is in plenty all over the world, the latter is obtained from ‘petroleum products’ which is a vanishing resource on earth. Government in developing nations have to subsidize the cost of agro-chemicals to make it affordable to farmers and also to keep the cost of food production artificially low for society. Vermicompost can be produced ‘on-farm’ at low-cost by simple devices, while the chemical fertilizers are high-tech & high-cost products made in factories. Use of vermicompost in farm soil eventually leads to increase in the number of earthworm population in the farmland over a period of time as the baby worms grow out from their cocoons. It infers that slowly over the years, as the worms build up the soil’s physical, chemical & biological properties, the amount of vermicompost can be slowly reduced while maintaining the same yield. The yield per hectare may also increase further as the soil’s natural fertility is restored & strengthened. On the contrary, in chemical agriculture, the amount of chemicals used per hectare has been steadily increasing over the years to maintain the same yield as the soil became ‘addict’. Nearly 3-4 times of agro-chemicals are now being used per hectare what was used in the 1960s. Vermicompost is able to retain more soil moisture and also protects crops from pests & diseases thus reducing the demand of water for irrigation by nearly 30 – 40 % and pest & disease control by almost 100 % by ‘vermiwash’ & ‘vermicompost tea’ with higher numbers (in millions) of pest and disease killer microbes. This significantly cut down on the cost of production. As it also helps the crops to attain maturity and reproduce faster, it shortens the ‘harvesting time’. This further cuts on the cost of production and also adds to the economy of farmers as they can grow more crops every year in the same farm plot.
  26. 26. -26- While vermicompost production & use is an ‘environmentally friendly’ practices (salvaging WASTE while converting them into RESOURCE, improving SOIL properties and conserving WATER), production of chemical fertilizers is ‘environmentally damaging’ (generating hazardous wastes & pollutants) in its entire life-cycle, since harnessing of raw materials from the earth crust, to their processing in factories and application in farms (polluting soil & killing beneficial organisms) with severe economic & environmental implications. Earthworms converts a product of ‘negative’ economic & environmental value i.e. ‘waste’ into a product of ‘highly positive’ economic & environmental values i.e. ‘highly nutritive organic fertilizer’ (brown gold) and ‘safe food’ (green gold). Vermiculture can maintain the global ‘human sustainability cycle’ – producing food back from food & farm wastes. In any vermiculture practice, earthworms biomass comes as a valuable by-product and they are good source of nutritive ‘worm meal’. If vermi-products (worms, vermicompost & vermiwash) are able to replace agrochemicals in food production and protein rich worms provide nutritive feeds for fishery and poultry production it would truly help achieve greater sustainability in safe human food production in future. 13). Conclusions & Remarks Earthworms and its vermicompost may work as the ‘driving force’ in promoting ORGANIC FARMING while improving soil health and fertility and can significantly REDUCE and eventually REPLACE the use of AGROCHEMICALS. Their use would also significantly reduce the demand of water for irrigation and pest & disease control. This is what is being termed as SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE. Several farming communities all over world are practicing VERMICULTURE and have completely given up Chemical Agriculture. A 2 nd Green Revolution is on with earthworms driving it. Vermicompost also increase ‘BIOLOGICAL RESISTANCE’ in plants against pest and diseases and help them to attain MATURITY and reproduce faster, thus reducing the ‘life-cycle’ of crops and also shortening the ‘harvesting time’. A farmer can take more than two crops in a year from the same farm. Results of our present studies made in Australia and India established beyond doubt that ‘vermicompost’ works like ‘miracle growth promoter’ and is nutritionally much superior to the conventional compost and even the chemical fertilizers. Care has to be taken about heavy metals when processing urban wastes & sewage sludge for vermicompost production. Study made in 1998 found that the best growth responses were exhibited when the vermicompost constituted a relatively smaller proportion of the total volume of the container medium. Our studies made at Griffith University, Australia (2010) on potted wheat crops also supported this. This is contrary to chemical fertilizer use. Over the years since the 1st Green Revolution in the 1950s-60s, the amount of chemical fertilizer use has significantly grown 5-6 times to maintain the same yield and productivity of previous years. This is because the ‘natural fertility’ of soil has been seriously impaired by continued use of chemical fertilizers. Vermicompost application restore and enhance the ‘natural fertility’ of soil by significantly increasing the population of beneficial soil microbes like the nitrogen fixing and phosphate solubilizing bacteria. Over the years their requirement is reduced as the soil becomes more fertile and healthy. Vermicompost can even turn a ‘barren land’ into ‘fertile productive land. Another very important thing of considerable agronomic significance is that vermicompost prepared from raw materials where ‘CATTLE DUNG’ is an important ingredient is superior and contain more nutrients for better growth promotion. A 2 nd GREEN REVOLUTION is on in several countries and this time by Earthworms – Charles Darwin’s ‘friends of farmers’ . Tribute to the Earthworms Earthworms are justifying the beliefs and fulfilling the dreams of the great visionary scientist Sir Charles Darwin as ‘unheralded soldiers’ of mankind and ‘friend of farmer’s. Darwin emphasized that ‘there may not be any other creature in world that has played so important a role in the history of life on earth’. They are also justifying the views of great Indian tree scientist Sir Surpala who visioned the role of earthworms in fruit development. One of the leading authorities on earthworms and vermiculture studies Dr. Anatoly Igonin of Russia has also said –
  27. 27. -27- ‘Nobody and nothing can be compared with earthworms and their positive influence on the whole living Nature. They create soil and everything that lives in it. They are the most numerous animals on Earth and the main creatures converting all organic matter into soil humus providing soil’s fertility and biosphere’s functions: DISINFECTING, NEUTRALIZING, PROTECTIVE & PRODUCTIVE’. 14). Important References & Websites for Further Know-how on Earthworms & Vermicompost Production and Use Appelhof, Mary (2003): Notable Bits; In WormEzine, Vol. 2 (5): May 2003 (Available at ( Arancon, Norman (2004): An Interview with Dr. Norman Arancon; In Casting Call, Vol. 9 (2); August 2004. ( Bogdanov, Peter (2004): The Single Largest Producer of Vermicompost in World; In P. Bogdanov (Ed.), ‘Casting Call’, Vol. 9 (3), October 2004. ( Bogdanov, Peter (1996): Commercial Vermiculture: How to Build a Thriving Business in Redworms; VermiCo Press, Oregon, 83 p. Beetz, Alice (1999): Worms for Composting (Vermicomposting); ATTRA-National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, Livestock Technical Note, June 1999. Baker, Geoff & Vicki Barrett (1994): Earthworm Identifier; Publication of Council of Scientific & Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Division of Soil & Land Management, Australia. Bhiday, M.H. (1995): Wealth from Waste: Vermiculturing; Publication of Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI), New Delhi, India; ISBN 81-85419-11-6 Bhawalkar, U. S. (1995): Vermiculture Eco-technology; Publication of Bhawalkar Earthworm Research Institute (BERI), Pune, India. Dynes, R.A. (2003): EARTHWORMS; Technology Info to Enable the Development of Earthworm Production; Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), Govt. of Australia, Canberra, ACT. Edwards, C.A. and N. Arancon (2004): Vermicompost Suppress Plant Pests and Disease Attacks; In REDNOVA NEWS: ?id =55938 Edwards, C.A., Burrows, I., Fletcher, K.E. and Jones, B.A. (1985): The Use of Earthworms for Composting Farm Wastes; In JKR Gasser (Ed.) Composting Agricultural and Other Wastes; Elsevier, London & New York, pp. 229 – 241. Fraser-Quick, G. (2002): Vermiculture – A Sustainable Total Waste Management Solution; What’s New in Waste Management ? Vol. 4, No.6; pp. 13-16. GEORG (2004): Feasibility of Developing the Organic and Transitional Farm Market for Processing Municipal and Farm Organic Wastes Using Large - Scale Vermicomposting; Pub. Of Good Earth Organic Resources Group, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. (Available on Kale, Radha D. (1998): Earthworms : Nature’s Gift for Utilization of Organic Wastes; In C.A. Edward (ed). ‘Earthworm Ecology’; St. Lucie Press, NY, ISBN 1-884015-74-376. Munroe, Glenn (2007): Manual of On-farm Vermicomposting & Vermiculture; Publication of Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada; 39 p. NCSU (1997): Large Scale Vermi-composting Operations – Data from Vermi-cycle Organics, Inc.; North Carolina State University, U.S. Pajon, Silvio (Undated): ‘The Worms Turn - Argentina’; Intermediate Technology Development Group; Case Study Series 4; (Quoted in Munroe, 2007). ( Sherman, Rhonda (2000): Commercial Systems Latest Development in Mid-to-Large Scale Vermicomposting; Biocycle; November 2000, pp. 51.
  28. 28. -28- UNSW, ROU (2002): Best Practice Guidelines to Managing On-Site Vermiculture Technologies; University of New South Wales Recycling Organics Unit; Sydney, NSW, Australia; (Viewed in December 2004) Some Other Useful Websites (The Worm Man, Australia) (Good Earth People, Canada) (Mary Appelhof : Classic Book ‘Worms Eat My Garbage’ (‘Worm Digest’ – A Quarterly Magazine) (Waste Management by Vermiculture, New Zealand) Scientists / Farmers in Australia, NZ & US Involved in VERMICULTURE Jaya Nair ( Geoff H. Baker ( R.A. Dynes ( Katie Webster ( Fauser Wayne ( Gary Jorgenson ( Tom Bourke ( M. Gary ( Paul Harrey ( Richards Folley ( Andrew Swann ( Jerry Scholder (USA) ( JM Kelly ( Farmer George Hahn (USA) ( David (Australia) ( Farmer Scientist Anthony Sim (Australia) ( Farmer Scientist Indian Vermiculture Scientists / Farmers Radha Kale ( Ravindra Sohane (Bihar) Surendra Suthar (; N. Karmegam (; Vinod Garg ( G. Gunasekaran ( Periasamy Alagesan ( Prashant Kumar ( Surendra Rai (Bihar, India) ( Farmer Vinod Kumar Singh (Bihar, India) ( Farmer Some Commercial Vermiculture Companies in Australia & NZ 1. Vermitech Pvt. Ltd. ( 2. Vital Earth Company Pvt. Ltd., Lemon Tree Passage, NSW – 2319 3. Acme Worm Farms (Tom Bourke:; 4. Worms Down Under, QLD (Paul Harrey;; 5. Vermiglobal Ltd., NSW (Richards Foley: 6. Back to Earth Australia Pty. Ltd. (Andrew Swann: 7. Envirofert, New Zealand (M. Gary:; Vermiculture Research Centres in Australia 1). Rural Industry Research & Development Corporation ( R.A. Dynes ( 2).. Murdoch University, Perth (Dr. Jaya Nair: 3). Council of Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Canberra Dr. Geoff H. Baker (;
  29. 29. -29- 4). Griffith University, Nathan Campus, Brisbane (Dr. Rajiv K. Sinha); Some Commercial Vermiculture Companies and Research Centres in India 1. S.S. Vermicompost Farm, Madurai, Tamil Nadu – 625 209 (www.trademart. in/ssvermicompostfarm.htm) 2. Green Earth Biotech Ltd., Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu – 641 029 ( 3. Agri-Solutions, 36/152 A, Shree Krishna Centre, Parvathipuram, Nagarcoil, Tamil Nadu – 629 003 4. The Best Agro-Organics, Dindguil, Tamil Nadu ( 5. Agri-Tech, Vadodra, Gujarat (Mr. Mandar Prabhune ; 6. Annamalai University, Tamil Nadu (Dr. G. Gunasekaran) (thilgamsekar 7. Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture, Hyderabad Sreenath Dixit ( 8. Bhawalkar Earthworm Research Institute, Pune (Mr. Uday and Mrs. Vidula Bhawalkar) 9. Tata Energy & Resources Institute (TERI), New Delhi. 10. GKVK (Agriculture University), Bangalore (Dr. Sunitha Seenappa) (Prof. Radha D. Kale (Retd.); 11. Periyar College of Technology for Women, Tamil Nadu 12. Rajendra Agriculture University, Pusa, Bihar 13. Karnataka Compost Development Corporation, Bangalore 14. M.R. Morarka-GDC Rural Research Foundation, Jaipur (satyveer@ 15. University of Rajasthan, Jaipur (Dr. Sunita Agarwal: 16. Guru Jambheshwar University of Science and Technology, Hisar, Harayana (Dr. Vinod K. Garg; 17. Institute of Agriculture, Visva-Bharati University, West Bengal (Dr. Gunindra Chattopadhaya; 18. V.M.K.V. Engineering College, Vinayaka Missions University, Salem (Dr. N. Karmegam; 19. Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi (Dr. Surindra Suthar: 20. Sardar Patel University, Vallabh Vidyanagar, Anand, Gujarat; (Dr. Dhaval) ( 21. Mr. & Mrs. Vijay Sharma, Jagatpura, Mohali, Punjab 22. Ecosmart Waste Management Pvt. Ltd. India (Syed Ismail Khurram: (