VermiCompost: Component of Organic Farming

VermiCompost: Component of Organic Farming

Organic agriculture is defined as system of crop and livestock production that involves the use of biological materials, avoiding synthetic substances to maintain soil fertility and ecological balance  while minimizing adverse effects on natural resources. According to International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), an international organization established in 1972 for organic farming organizations defines the goal of organic farming as: “Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects”

Vermi-composting is a simple biotechnological process of composting which covert biodegradable waste into organic manures with the help of earthworms. Vermicompost is stable, fine granular organic manure which enriches soil quality by improving its physiochemical and biological properties as well as converting large pieces of organic matter into humus. Earthworm are valued by farmers, in addition to aerating the soil, consume biomass and excrete it in digested form called worm cast/black gold which are rich in nutrients, growth promoting substances as well as beneficial microflora.  Mostly red species of earthworm i.e. Eisenia foetida is preferred because it has high multiplication rate and since it is surface feeder convert organic matter into vermicompost from top within 45-50 days.

IMPORTANCE OF VERMICOMPOST AS A PART OF ORGANIC FARMING SYSTEM

In present context, agriculture sector depends mainly on imported agro-chemical inputs i.e. chemical fertilizer and pesticides, as its substitute vermi-compost could be an effective solution to the problem in crop productivity and reduce the economic costs. It is one of the part of organic farming as it causes benefits in the aspects of economics but also causes improvement in soil status, environments aspects as well as enhances plant growth and crop yield. It improves soil structure, texture, aeration and water holding capacity and prevents soil erosion and nutrient loss. Its application enhances nodulation in legumes and symbiotic mycorrhizal associations with the roots. Vermi-compost contains earthworm cocoons and increases the population and activity of earthworm in soil. Vermicomposting is free from pathogens, toxic elements, weed seeds, etc. and minimizes incidence of pest and diseases. It also contains valuable vitamins, enzymes and hormones like auxins and gibberellins. Vermi-compost can also be used as rooting media and  important for establishment of saplings in nurseries.

Nutrient content of Vermicompost

In home garden, the presence of earthworm casting provides 5 to 11 times more nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium as the surrounding soil. Vermi-compost, as an organic fertilizer rich in NPK(Nitrogen 2-3%, Potassium 1.85-2.25% and Phosphorus 1.55-2.25%), micronutrient and beneficial soil microbes(nitrogen fixing & phosphate solubilizing bacteria and actinomycetes as a sustainable alternative to chemical fertilizer. Nutrient in vermi-compost are in readily available form and release within a month of application.

Material required for Vermicomposting

The favorable conditions of earthworms in the composting materials are PH about 6.5-7.5, moisture about 60-70%, aeration about 50% and temperature about 19-350 C.

  1. Decomposable organic wastes such as animal excreta, kitchen wastes, farm residues and forest litter.
  2. Animal dung mostly cow dung and dried chopped crop residue.
  3. Mixture of leguminous and non- leguminous crop.

Steps followed for preparation of Vermicompost

    1. Vermicomposting bed, pit or trench should be made or kept in cool moist and shady places.
    2. Cow dung and chopped dried leaf materials are mixed in ratio of 3:1 and kept for partial decomposition for 15-20 days.
    3. A layer of 15-20cm chopped dried leaves should be kept as bedding materials as bottom of bed.
    4. Beds  of size 6*2*2 feet should be made and each bed can accommodate about 1.5-2.0 quintals of raw materials.
    5. Red earthworm should be released on the upper surface of bed and water should be sprinkled immediately after release of worms
    6. Bed should be kept moist by sprinkle water daily and covered by gunny bags.
    7. Bed should be turned once after 30 days for maintaining aeration and for proper decomposition and compost became ready in 45-50 days.

Hence, like conventional composting , vermicompost provides many benefits to the environment, enhancing the fertility status of the soil, better nutrient as well water holding capacity, as well as increases level of microbial activity and reduction  in economic cost. To make sustainable environment, vermicomposting is one of the best method of composting as part of organic farming which should applied at farm level in simpler and effective way.

About the Author:
Usha Karki; B.Sc. Ag
Lamjung Campus
Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science

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