Vermicompost is a process of converting organic waste into useful products through the action of earthworms. It consists of worm casts and some decayed organic matter. It is the process of converting organic debris into worm castings. These castings are very important to the fertility of the soil.
Vermicompost is organic, non-burning and rich in nutrients. They contain high amounts of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. The worm casts are suitable for a wide range of horticultural uses. They have good aeration, porosity, structure, drainage, and moisture-holding capacity. The casts are also rich in humic acids, which condition the soil and also have a perfect pH balance.
Materials required for preparation of Vermicompost
- Crop residues/weed biomass/vegetable waste
- Cow dung
Method of Vermicompost preparation
1. Selection of site
Vermicompost can be produced in any place with shade, high humidity, and cool place. A thatched roof may be provided to protect the process from direct sunlight and rain. The waste heaped for vermicompost production can be covered with coconut/Arecanut fronds, banana leaves or with moist gunny bags.
2.Vermicompost production process
The production process involves the following steps
- A pit size of measurements 20’X4’x2.5′ or any convenient lengthx4’x2.5′ is dug in soil
- The thick layer of cow dung slurry is covered over the finely cut pieces of Arecanut/coconut fronds or banana dry leaf materials over which the ratio of 80% waste and 20% cow dung should be maintained.
- Repeat the process of layering and then cover the pit with a thin layer of cow dung.
- Leave it for 25 to 30 days depending on the climatic conditions for partial decomposition.
- This process helps in partial digestion/decomposition of the material and fit for earthworm consumption.
- The pit should be kept moist by sprinkling water daily depending on climatic conditions by covering with gunny.
- Earthworms viz Eisenia foetida(Red earthworm), Eudrilus eugeniae(nightcrawler), Perionyx excavatus, etc are released to the pit.
- Pits should be turned once after 30 days for maintaining aeration and proper decomposition.
- Compost gets ready layer by layer in 45 to 60 days depending on the quantity of biodegradable waste or number of earthworms released.
- When Vermicompost is completely decomposed and ready, it appears black, quite lightweight and has a pleasant earthy smell.
- The Vermicompost should be kept over a heap of partially decomposed cow dung so that earthworms could migrate to cow dung.
- The harvested vermicompost should be stored in a dark, cool place.
- It should have a minimum of 40% moisture.
- Sunlight should not fall over the composted material. It will lead to loss of moisture and nutrient content.
- The harvested compost material is openly stored rather than packed in over sac.
- Packing can be done at the time of selling. It is stored in an open place, a periodical sprinkling of water may be done to maintain moisture level and also to maintain a beneficial microbial population.
- Cowdung and biomass should be decomposed for a minimum of 25 to 30 days to avoid excess heat.
- Organic wastes should be free from plastics, stone/glass pieces chemicals, pesticides, and metals.
- Proper aeration should be maintained for good/proper growth and multiplication of earthworms.
- The optimum moisture level of 30 to 40% should be maintained.
- The temperature of about 18 to 28 degrees Celcius should be maintained for proper decomposition.
Dosage for different Horticulture crops
- Sapota, Mango, Grapes – 3 kg/ plant
- Papaya, Banana, Pomegranate – 2kg/ plant
- Others – 1.5 kg/plant
- Cole crops and tomato – 3 ton/ha
- Others – 2 ton/ha
- Coconut – 2 kg/ plant
- Arecanut and others – 1 kg/ plant
- Rose, Jasmine, Chrysanthemum – 2.5 ton/ ha
- Others 2 ton/ ha
Advantages of Vermicomposting
There are several advantages of Vermicomposting
- Vermicompost is rich in all essential plant nutrients.
- It is a stable and enriched soil conditioner.
- It neutralizes the soil protection.
- It helps in reducing the toxicity of heavy metals.
- It helps in the reduction of pathogenic microbe’s population.
- It enhances the decomposition of organic matter in the soil.
- Improves soil structure, texture, aeration and water holding capacity of the soil.
- Minimizes the incidence of pests and diseases.
- It contains valuable vitamins, enzymes, and hormones like auxins, gibberellins, etc.
- Economically viable and environmentally safe nutrient supplement for organic food production.
Nutritive value of Vermicompost
Nutrient content in vermicompost varies depending upon the organic/waste materials that I being used for compost preparation. The commonly available nutrients in vermicompost are as follows.
|Organic carbon||9.15 – 17.98%|
|Nitrogen||0.5 – 1.50%|
|Phosphorus||0.1 – 0.30%|
|Potassium||0.15 – 0.56%|
|Sodium||0.06 – 0.30%|
|Calcium and Magnesium||22.67 to 47.60 meq/100g|
|Sulfur||128 – 548 mg kg-1|
|Copper||2 -9.50 mg kg-1|
|Iron||2 – 9.30 mg kg-1|
|Zinc||5.70 – 11. 50 mg-1|
Portable Vermi beds
Portable Vermi beds have been developed to help farmers make their own organic compost. The Vermicompost made from the Vermi bed makes the soil & crop completely free from chemicals and other harmful substances as compared to chemical fertilizers. It also enriches the soil and improves its fertility giving the farmer a better yield of the crop in a very eco-friendly way.
- High-quality UV stabilizers protect the Vermi bed from continuous exposure to strong heat and sunlight preventing it from degrading, thus increasing the life of the Vermi bed.
- It is light in weight hence very easy to install but at the same time, it’s strong.
- The Aeration net windows provided for maximum air ventilation maintain a proper balance of oxygen & moisture that helps to keep a controlled environment for healthier, faster and the best quality Vermicompost.
Objectives of Organic farming and sustainable agriculture
Sustained vermiculture practices and the use of vermicompost in farm soil over the years will enable organic farming and serve several advantages to the soil. Vermicompost is rich in microbial diversity and plant available nutrients; improve the moisture-holding capacity of soils thus reducing water for irrigation, improve physical, biological and chemical properties of soil, increase soil porosity and softness thus requiring minimum tillage.
- Maintenance of soil microbiology and fertility by greater use of biofertilizers.
- High productivity and stability of yield over the years.
- Productivity with ‘minimum’ or ‘no-tilling’/ Low use of agrochemicals(only as helping hand) and integration with biofertilizers and biopesticides.
- Productivity with minimum use of water and even sustain dryness or heavy rainfall.
- Preservation of crop diversity(biotopes).
- Preservation of soil, water, and air quality in the farm ecosystem,
- Preservation of benevolent organisms(predators), flora and fauna in the farm ecosystem.
- Preservation of groundwater table.
- Preservation of good health for all.
- Reduction of water and energy use.
To preserve the global agroecosystems and protect human health from the harmful agro-chemicals, ‘Ecological Agriculture and Organic Farming’ has to be promoted. Ecological agriculture is relatively more sustainable, and it could be an economically and environmentally viable alternative to destructive chemical agriculture. Sustainable agriculture is a process of learning new and innovative methods developed by both farmers and the farm scientist and also learning from the traditional knowledge and practices of the farmers and implementing what was food in them and also relevant in present times. Vermiculture was practiced by traditional and ancient farmers with enormous benefits accruing for them and their farmlands. There is a need to revive this ‘traditional concept’ through modern scientific knowledge ‘ Vermicultural Revolution’.