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Vermicompost – a product or process of composting utilizing various species of worms – Part 3

• Vermicompost is the product or process of composting utilizing various species of worms.
• These worms are usually red wigglers, white worms, and earthworms.
• They are used to create a heterogeneous mixture of decomposing vegetable or food waste, bedding materials, and vermicast.
• Vermicast, similarly known as worm castings, worm humus or worm manure, is the end-product.
• The endproduct is obtained by the breakdown of organic matter by a species of earthworm.
• These castings have been shown to contain reduced levels of contaminants and a higher saturation of nutrients.
• The nutrients are more than the organic materials before vermicomposting.
• Vermicompost contains water-soluble nutrients.
• Vermicompost is an excellent, nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner.
• This process of producing vermicompost is called vermicomposting.

• Worms in a bin are being harvested.
• Vermicompost is ready for harvest when it contains few-to-no scraps of uneaten food or bedding.

There are several methods of harvesting from small-scale systems:
1. Dump and hand sort
2. Let the worms do the sorting
3. Alternate containers
4. Divide and dump
• These differ on the amount of time and labor involved.
• It’s also a good idea to try to pick out as many eggs/cocoons as possible and return them to the bin.
• Eggs are small, lemon-shaped yellowish objects.
• They are seen by the naked eye and picked out.

Properties of Vermicompost

• Vermicompost has been shown to be richer in many nutrients than compost produced by other composting methods.
• It also has outperformed a commercial plant medium with nutrients added.
• But it needed adjustment for magnesium and pH.
• The effects of homemade, backyard, vermicompost compared to municipal compost were lower.
• This is in terms of soil microbial biomass, soil microbial activity, and yields of a species of ryegrass.
• The differences between methods of composting were in large part due to the feed stock.
• It is rich in microbial life which converts nutrients already present in the soil into plant-available forms.
• Worm castings also contain worm mucus which helps prevent nutrients from washing away with the first watering .
• It also holds moisture better than plain soil.

Benefits of Vermicompost

1. Soil
• Improves its physical structure.
• Enriches soil with micro-organisms.
• It adds enzymes such as phosphatase and cellulase.
• Microbial activity in worm castings is 10 to 20 times higher than in the soil and organic matter that the worm ingests.
• Attracts deep-burrowing earthworms already present in the soil.
• Improves water holding capacity.

2. Plant growth
• Enhances germination, plant growth, and crop yield.
• Improves root growth and structure.
• Enriches soil with micro-organisms.
• It adds plant hormones such as auxins and gibberellic acid.

3. Economic
• Biowastes conversion reduces waste flow to landfills.
• Elimination of biowastes from the waste stream reduces contamination of other recyclables collected in a single bin.
• Creates low-skill jobs at local level.
• Low capital investment.
• Uses relatively simple technologies.

4. Environmental
• Helps to close the “metabolic gap” through recycling waste on-site.
• Large systems often use temperature control and mechanized harvesting.
• Other equipment is relatively simple and does not wear out quickly.
• Production reduces greenhouse gas emissions such as methane and nitric oxide.

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