Backyard Culture of Earthworms (Vermiculture)
The “vermi” or earthworms are important in enriching the soil with organic matter which comes from biodegradable materials such as dead plants and animals which the earthworms ingest. Besides this,there are other benefits from earthworms.
The castings of earthworms also known as vermicompost is an excellent soil enhancer and bioactive high quality fertilizer for organic farming. This is a perfect alternative to using chemical fertilizers, and this has been proven in field tests. Earthworms can also be made into feed for fish and other domesticated animals called vermimeal.
The “African Nightcrawler” (Eudrilus eugeniae) is the earthworm species suited to be grown in the Philippines for the production of vermicompost and vermimeal. Vermicompost is used or sold as organic fertilizer for plant and crop farming. Vermimeal is used as an alternative for imported fish meal that we feed to fish and other farmed animals.
The first step in vermicompost production is to gather and prepare all the materials to make the vermi bed. The biodegradable materials may be sourced from the backyard or kitchen. In the backyard, use dried leaves, newly cut grass or plant trimmings. From the kitchen, discarded vegetable parts, fruit peelings and fish entrails may also be used.
Before stocking the earthworms, make sure that all the materials in the vermi bed are prepared. To start, mix the dried leaves and kitchen waste thoroughly with enough water. Cover the materials with a plastic sheet, old sacks or banana leaves to start the “anaerobic process”. This process is completed after one to two weeks.
After the “anaerobic process”, remove the cover and stock the vermi bed with one kilo of earthworms or approximately 1,000 pieces for every one square meter of vermi bed that contains 100-200 kilos of materials.
Vermicompost is harvested when most of the materials have been consumed by the worms. This takes about 30-45 days, depending on environmental and culture conditions. Maintain the moisture content and temperature of the vermi beds through regular checking. Protect the earthworms from predatory animals.
In harvesting, separate the “vermi” from the vermicompost either manually (hand-picking) or by using a screen. Properly pack vermicompost in sealed bags or sacks and store in a cool dry place.
Harvested “vermi” from the culture beds may either be used for the next vermicomposting cycle or made into vermimeal through the following process:
- Wash the worms thoroughly with clean flowing water to remove dirt.
- Kill the “vermi” by putting them in a basin with warm water (40-60ºC).
- Dry under the sun until brittle.
- Grind dried worms manually or through a grinder into meal form.
- Store in sealed polyethylene bags with proper label and store in cool dry place.
Advantages of Vermicomposting:
- Environment friendly since earthworms feed on anything that is biodegradable, vermicomposting then partially aids in the garbage disposal problems.
- No imported inputs required worms are now locally available and the materials for feeding are abundant in the locality as market wastes, grasses, used papers and farm wastes.
- Vermicompost is more effective as an organic fertilizer than ordinary compost
- Has auxin, a naturally occurring growth hormone
- Improves soil health
- No overdosage
- Turns trash to cash
- Highly profitable both the worms and castings are saleable
- World and local markets for vermicomposting are big.
- World consumption of organically grown foods is estimated at US$ 100 billion per year.
- In 1993, the potential use of organic fertilizer covered 2.5 million hectares in the Philippines.
- The demand for organic fertilizer in 1993 was 6.25 billion bags (50 kg/bag) compared to actual consumption of only 62,000 metric tons.
For more information, contact worm suppliers:
Vermi Action Center
Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine
Research and Development (DoST),
Jamboree Road, Timugan, Los Banos, Laguna
Tel/Fax: (049) 536-1582 or (049) 536-5578
source: PCAM-DOST, photo from pr.uoguelph.ca
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