Earthworms are often called friends of farmers as they help in recycling agricultural waste and improving the quality of the soil. They live in soil by making burrows which makes soil porous and helps in the respiration of plant roots. The terms vermiculture, vermicompost, and vermicomposting all are related to earthworms. Let us now define them one by one.
What is Vermiculture?
Vermiculture is the artificial rearing or cultivation of earthworms. It is a scientific process to produce earthworms in large numbers. Earthworm farms all over the world produce thousands of earthworms per day. They are useful in several ways, some of them are listed below.
- Soil improvement: They make soil porous and allows better aeration, quick absorption of water, and easy penetration of plant roots.
- Vermicomposting: Earthworms are the best worms for vermicomposting.
- Fishbait: They form excellent bait for catching fish with fishing rods.
- Scientific Study: Scientists study and dissect them in labs as they are easily available.
- Scavengers: The earthworms act as natural scavengers they eat organic debris present in the soil.
What is Vermicomposting?
Vermicomposting is the process of turning organic waste into worm castings (worm excreta). In this process, earthworms are fed with organic waste in a composting pit so that they can digest it and then excrete it as worm castings.
Worm castings are rich in nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous, calcium, and magnesium and thus act as an excellent biofertilizer. This biofertilizer is commonly known as vermicompost and is nutritionally more beneficial than other composts.
How can you prepare vermicompost?
You can prepare vermicompost easily at home or in agriculture fields. All you need is the species of earthworm, a composting bin or pit, and organic matter which can be fed to the earthworms.
1. Species of Earthworm:
Eisenia fetida is the best earthworm species for vermicomposting. It feeds on rotting vegetation, compost, and manure.
2. Composting pit or bin:
- Tanks of brick and mortar with proper aeration.
- Plastic crates with holes drilled at the bottom and sides.
- Wooden crates.
- Clay pots with holes on sides.
- Simple homemade bin made of wood.
3. Organic matter:
- Agri waste – crop, husk, straw, stems, leaf matter, etc.
- Animal waste – cow dung, biogas slurry.
- Kitchen waste – scrapes of vegetables, fruits, eggshells, etc.
The process of vermicomposting:
1. Predigestion of Organic matter:
You should mix organic matter with cattle dung or manure to initiate bacterial decomposition. During the initial days, organic matter produces a lot of heat because of active bacterial decomposition. So, you should add the organic matter to composting bed only after it has cooled down.
2. Preparation of Vermibed or Bedding:
You should place a layer of bedding at the bottom of the container or pit. Worms thrive in moist conditions, so cardboard, paper, coconut husk, or sugarcane husk are the best. This is because these items can hold a lot of moisture.
You can either soak bedding material before placing it in the bin or you can spray it with water after placing it in the bin. After that, we can add the predigested organic matter. Now fill at least half of the container or pit.
3. Introduction of worms:
You can place earthworms by digging a shallow depression in the middle of bedding or can simply spread them over the bedding. You can add them depending upon the size of the vermibed. However, you should know that earthworms reproduce rapidly. So, if you give them enough food and space they can double their population in 60 to 90 days.
After introducing earthworms, you should add a top layer of husk or dried matter to protect them from direct sunlight.
4. Harvesting of Vermicompost:
You can harvest compost when the organic matter becomes somewhat loose, crumbly, and dark brown. It should smell like earth at the time of harvesting. If there is a bad smell then it means bacterial decomposition is still undergoing. So, you should not harvest it.
The complete harvesting process can take about three to four weeks or it can take up to months depending upon the material used. After harvesting, you can clean the composting bin, and then you can repeat the above process for the next harvest.
So, now you know about vermiculture, vermicompost, and vermicomposting. Also, you can now easily prepare vermicompost at home. So that is all for now, meet you in my next article. Keep Reading, Keep Exploring, and Keep Sharing your Knowledge, and above all BE CURIOUS. 🙂
Also Read: What is Soil? How is it formed?