Composting creates an ideal habitat for beneficial bacteria to grow, helping the decaying process to become incredibly life-giving. It’s safe to say that Texas soils adore compost. So, the most important thing you can do to help your soil is to add this wonderful natural resource.
Worms can be super useful when it comes to composting organic material. However, as with any agricultural process, we need to understand the science behind it. There are an estimated 1800 earthworm species worldwide, and each species plays a specialized role in nature. Selecting appropriate worm friends is therefore crucial in what is known as “vermicomposting”.
Vermicomposting is a tangible way of reducing waste, producing fertilizers, and maintaining the balance of the ecological environment. This process can also produce fertilizers that are higher in quality than many commercial fertilizers on the market
The advantages of deliberately exploiting worms as a workforce in your compost were summarized by Anatoly M. Igonin, a professor at Vladimir State Pedagogical University:
“Nobody and nothing can be compared with earthworms in their positive influence on the entirety of Nature. They create soil and everything that lives in it. They are the most numerous animals on Earth and the main creatures converting all organic matter into soil humus, providing the soil with fertility and the biosphere with its functions: disinfecting, neutralizing, protecting, and producing.”
Earth Healthy Farm uses vermiculture to augment “the Good Food Revolution, which changes how we raise, distribute, and eat food in a way that is healthy for people and the environment.” Another worm ranch in Garland, Texas not only produces tens of thousands of pounds of vermicompost per month for organic farmers to take advantage of but also offers online vermicomposting classes.
Earthworm culture is known as vermiculture. The goal with vermiculture is to keep increasing the number of worms to ensure a long-term harvest. The worms are either sold to clients who use them in the same manner or for other purposes.
Vermicomposting is the process of using worms to transform organic materials (typically trash) into vermicompost, a humus-like material. The objective is to process the material as soon as feasible.
These two processes are comparable, but they are not the same. If you want to make vermicompost, you should always have the highest worm population density possible. However, if you want to generate worms, you’ll want to keep the population density low enough to maximize reproductive rates.
All 1800 species of earthworms can be put into three different categories:
Anecic (Greek: “out of the earth”) – Burrowing worms come to the surface at night to pull food down into their burrows, which are deep within the soil’s mineral layers. The Canadian Nightcrawler is a good example of such an earthworm.
Endogeic (Greek: “within the earth”) – These are also burrowing worms, but their burrows are typically more shallow. These worms feed on the organic matter already in the soil, so they only occasionally come to the surface.
Epigeic (Greek: “on the earth”) – These worms feed on decaying organic waste and reside in the surface litter. They do not have permanent burrows. When these worms are employed in vermicomposting, they are known as “decomposers”.
Eisenia fetida, otherwise known as a red worm, is a type of epigeic worm often used for composting purposes. These worms prefer temperatures between 0 and 35oC, but can survive in frozen organic material for a few weeks as long as they have food available. They can take a lot of rough handling and have a very rapid reproduction rate as soon as conditions become favorable.
All of these traits make Eisenia fetida one of the most suitable worm types for turning organic material into compost fertilizer.
Vermicompost is considered by many to be the best fertilizer for plants. We shall discuss some evidence that supports this view.
Vermicompost vs. organic fertilizers
Chemical fertilizers are inorganic fertilizers that are synthesized in a factory. They often contain urea, ammonium sulfate, ammonium phosphate, and ammonium nitrate, among other things. They are frequently referred to as “NPK” fertilizers as they contain various quantities of the three key macronutrients – nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Vermicompost is a brilliant natural fertilizer for plants as it’s high in nutrients. It’s rich in NPK, many micronutrients, beneficial soil microorganisms, as well as plant growth hormones and enzymes. The precise amount of nutrients is determined by the organic ingredients given to the worms which produce the compost.
Conventional compost, on the other hand, has a significantly smaller microbial community that is largely made up of Thermophilic bacteria. This kind of bacteria thrives at temperatures between 106 and 252°F.
Vermicompost is also superior to animal manure, such as cow manure, as it contains at least three to four times more macronutrients than compost made from cow dung. Vermicompost is also more porous and water retentive than calf manure, lowering irrigation requirements by 30–40%.
Vermicompost is an ideal fertilizer for plants, both in the home garden and on a commercial farm. It also contains plant enzymes, hormones, and a diverse microbial community that guards against pests and diseases while also aiding soil regeneration. Vermicompost also outperforms other types of organic compost, such as cow manure, in terms of composting time and macronutrient content.
As we can see from the facts surrounding vermicompost, it’s by far the most superior composting method, as it provides all necessary nutrients that a plant requires. What’s more, the carbon sequestration of vermicompost provides the soil with much-needed carbon, greatly increasing soil health. In simple terms, the increased physical, biological, and chemical qualities of the soil provide an optimal habitat for plants to grow in.
To summarize, vermicompost is recognized as a must-have for crop cultivation, especially when it comes to organic crop production in Texas.