Composting is a basic practice of organic gardening. Through biological decomposition, kitchen waste and plant matter are reduced to a beneficial soil content which takes the burden away from landfills.
Vermicomposting modifies the traditional composting process with the help of some unlikely catalysts- earthworms. Vermicompost is a highly useful product of composting with several major benefits.
What Is Vermicompost?
After earthworms digest organic matter, they excrete castings, which are nutrient-rich waste products. Even as food passes through their digestive tract, the worms secrete chemicals which breakdown organic matter into sustainable nutrition. These chemicals, discharged with their castings, comprise vermicompost that improves aeration, structure, and soil texture.
Named after the Latin word, ‘Vermi’ which means worm, vermicompost is highly useful as plant fertilizer. It can be applied as mulch, included as a component in potting mixes or brewed in water as a compost tea or liquid fertilizer. Thus, vermicomposting is the use of earthworms to convert vegetable waste to a 100% natural plant fertilizer.
A wide range of agricultural residue like husk, straw, leaves, weeds, stocks, etc. can be converted into vermicompost. Other potential feedstock for the latter is dairy waste, livestock waste, poultry litter, bagasse, food processing waste, etc.
Now let’s check out the major benefits garnered from vermicomposting:
The most crucial aspect of compost produced by earthworms is that it is 100% organic. It does not contain any harmful chemicals and is not required to be mixed with any other material.
Vermicomposting produces a product that is designed naturally to benefit plants in various ways. The most important benefit is that nutrients in vermicompost are easily absorbed by the root of plants. In contrast to chemical fertilizers, earthworm compost is not easily flushed from the soil because of the worm mucus contained in it. Plants have a long time to absorb the nutrients.
- Enriches soil
As per a report by Purdue University, earthworms leave soil 5% to 11% richer in the essential plant nutrients of Potassium, Phosphorous and Nitrogen. As an organic fertilizer, vermicompost is a substitute for synthetic fertilizer in soil-enriched, vegetable transplant mixes. In the role of a soil conditioner, vermicompost is superior to traditional compost for its ability to enhance soil structure and improve its water holding capacity.
- Enhances micro-organism content
When the compost is passed through the body of worms, it is enriched with microbes and bacteria. These help plants to become more disease resistant and to repel some plant pests. The presence of enhanced microbial activity can make the area highly attractive to birds which kill some pests.
- Leads to healthier plants
As the compost works on plants, they become healthier, and the requirement for pesticides is reduced. The reduction in pesticides helps the area to recover faster and can begin a self-improvement cycling process. This is in contrast to the typical cycle of chemical fertilizers. The latter helps improve plant yield but does nothing for plant health. Long term use of chemical fertilizers leads inevitably to breakdown of soil. Salts and ammonia build up which attack plants, making them less capable of withstanding disease.
- Helps in plant growth
Some of the hormones present in vermicompost help in the growth of plants. They encourage the germination of seeds, strengthen the growth of plants and improves crop yield. Such natural support is not possible with chemical fertilizers. The distribution of compost via the soil also aids in healthy growth of the root.
- Helps in water retention
Vermicompost is a colloidal material and can hold up to nine times of water as compared to its weight. This makes for a huge difference during a dry climate. The water held at the organic level tends to evaporate slowly while being available to the plants.
- Recycles common waste
Vermicomposting recycles many kinds of waste which are easily available like kitchen waste, paper products, and leaves. The only wastes it cannot process are oily substances and bones.
- Low cost
Apart from initial outlay, producing vermicompost is relatively inexpensive. Production processes are scalable and can range from a small box to bigger production operations, which make vermicompost for commercial use. Additionally, species of worms needed for the process are readily available and need minimal upkeep and care.
- Helps the environment
Vermicompost is an environment-friendly and renewable resource. A totally natural alternative to chemicals, it is a sound product from an ecological viewpoint. It also helps in reducing loads on landfills by processing waste.
These are the advantages to be gained from the process of vermicomposting.