It is almost impossible to have a world without waste. The average person generates 0.45g of waste per day of which more than 80% are food waste. Several waste management strategies have sought to recycle a chunk of generated waste using huge and complex recycling plants that require enormous infrastructural apparatus to operate.
Well, earthworms can do just what recycling plants can do in a matter of few weeks in an eco-friendly manner, turning organic waste into high quality nutrient-rich compost for your vegetable farm, in a process called vermicomposting. But how do worms perform the magic?
The Power of Worms
Earthworms have been discovered by scientists in recent times as efficient decomposers of organic waste into high quality nutirent-rich composts in amazingly faster rate. Unlike conventional laborious compost making process that rips farmers off their strength and time yet leaves less or no benefit to agricultural ecosystem, specialised earthworms do all the hard work.
Vermicomposting technology has been proven and tested as a reliable approach to working towards sustainable development through sustainable agriculture.
But the question is can the earthworms lingering at my backyard be used for vermicomposting?
Unfortunately the most efficient of worms are mostly exotic. Special earthworm species such as red wriggler worm (Eisenia fetida) and African night crawler (Eudrilus eugeniae) etc possess unique cellulose-degrading bacteria in their guts, that effectively breakdown complex organic substances at a much faster rate. Also, these special earthworms have a longer life span making them available for longer a period for use. The red wriggler worm for instance lives up to 10years and reproduce faster due to its hemaphroditic nature.
What is interesting about the worm’s ability to produce nutrient-rich compost is that scientists discovered that the earthworm gut is the site for the production of genuine humic acid and cellulose degrading bacteria that breaks down organic waste into quality compost also known as vermicast or earth cast. The earthworm cast is rich in essential plant nutrients and organic matter including vitamins, hormones and antibiotics. The black gold can supply as high as 40-60kgN including exchangeable soil nutrient such as Ca, Mg, K and P to the soil for your vegetable farm.
Earthworms are voracious feeders. The adult weighs 0.5 to 0.6kg, eats waste equivalent to its body weight and produces caste equivalent to about 50% of the waste it consumes per day. The worm assimilates 5-10% of the substrate and the rest passes through the alimentary carnal excreted as cast. About 1000 adult worms can convert 5kg waste into compost per day. In fact the red wriggler worm can successfully transform one tonne of garbage into rich compost in a year. You can imagine the extent to which waste can be managed to complement the existing waste management techniques. Once the worm can be placed in right ecosystem and cultured on organic substrate, decomposition increases.
A simple technology for all
Interestingly, vermicomposting is a simple technology that every famer can conveniently set up even in their homes.
First, buy or make a compost bin where every organic residue generated in the house is dropped. Buy your first set of worms, spread them over their substrate, close it and keep feeding them daily with more organic waste. Usually worms work better and faster in an enclosed place.
The benefits of vermicomposting cannot be over-emphasized. Even though simple, a number of business models can be developed out of the technology. Worm farming is a viable business that has proven very profitable. Same for vermicast and vermiwash production. The harvested earthworm cast can be sold to vegetable growers as fertilizer. Vermiwash is well known for its prophylactic ability to repel insects through foliar spray.
More importantly the use of vermicompost is a sure way to contribute to clean and green environment. As environmental safety activists, encouraging sustainable agriculture is a service we render to our health, the environment and that of our generation. Saying yes to organic agriculture is saying no to indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers that have deleterious effects on soil ecosystem, plants and animal health.
In the wake of a pandemic, engaging environmentally and ecologically sound practises is a sure way to addressing climate change effects and food security. We advocate for one household one backyard garden to feed ourselves and others. Places such as restaurants that generate a lot of food waste can employ this simple technology to convert their wastes into a more profitable product. A lot can be done that demands collective response now.