Saturday, November 15, 2008

Collecting Earthworm Locally

Different soils have different species of earthworms and choosing a local or native species of earthworm for a given soil type and for vermicomposting is an important step. There is no necessity to import or transfer earthworms from elsewhere. The advantages of using local varieties of earthworms are many. It is not advisable to use alien species as history is littered with examples of confrontations between indigenous and foreign organisms. Although the introduction of foreign species of earthworms has time and again been justified by a few scientists, it is inadvisable and undesirable to tamper with the local biodiversity.

Collecting local varieties of earthworms is a very simple and pleasurable job for a Earthworm Farmer. Soil near organically maintained trees or open culverts carrying organic wash water from domestic kitchens or restaurants, where worms are generally noticed and which is rich in vermicastings, is first identified. Handfuls of cattle dung are scattered over a one m2 area, followed by hay or leaf litter, and covered with an old jute cloth or jute bag. The place is kept moist by regular watering (not flooding with water). In about a fortnight’s time, both surface and sub-surface worms may be observed in that place. The worms should then be transferred for culture along with some quantity of native soil. This ensures not only survival but also the passive inoculation of cocoons from the area of collection.

If the first attempt is not very successful, then 1 kg of jaggery and 1 kg of
fresh cow dung dissolved in 20 litres of non-saline water should be applied to
that area once or twice a week to attract earthworms. (Do not try this on places
where there are absolutely no earthworms.)

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Earthworm Farming using Vermicompost

The compost prepared by using earthworms is called vermicompost. Vermicompost is very important aspect of an organic farming package. It is very easy to prepare a vermicompost and should be harmless to plants.

While vermiculture is culture of the earthworms, vermicastings are faecal matter released by the earthworms.

Earthworm can be raised in different type of shed, tank or even in container or basket. A compost pit of any convenient dimension can be dug in soil of Garden, back yard, corp field. In a city or unavailability of soil, you can make a tank with cement of size 2m x 1m x .75m, which is very easy to manage. When making Earthworm Raising vermiculture, Either plastic, wooden or rubber container can also used to do so. Just remember to enable water which is sprayed to the vermicompost to drain out.

The vermibed comprises a base layer of small peace of stone, bricks mixed with sand and thickness of 6 to 7.5 cm, which will allow you to keep your drainage system on your earthworm culture. On top of this layer, add minimum 15cm thickness of local soil and add 75 to 100 number of locally found Earthworms. One should also place
small quantities of cattle dung at different places on the soil and top it with a
layer of straw or hay not exceeding 10 cm. These serve as feed providing
nitrogen and carbon to the worms for their growth and multiplication.

The earthworm pit is to be in the shade or covered with fronds or old jute bags and liberally watered. The weep holes at the bottom, in the case of containers and tanks, will enable excess water to run out. The entire bed must be kept moist, but should not be soggy. The moisture should be maintained at a regular degree for about thirty days after the introduction of the worms. During this period, the earthworms multiply in number and then one can commence laying organic wastes or domestic refuse layer by layer periodically on the vermibed. As the organic waste is deposited, it decomposes and is gradually digested through the intestines of the earthworms.

The organic wastes in the pit may be turned over occasionally. Once the pit is filled up completely and the composting is complete, one can reduce the use of water, so that the earthworms migrate below. The rich compost can be removed and the process started all over again on the same vermibed. Passage of material through the earthworm gut converts the locked-up minerals into available forms which are readily assimilable by plants. This is made possible by a large number of microflora in the gut of earthworms. Moreover, castings produced by the earthworms have a bacterial population nearly 100 times higher than in the surrounding soils.

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