Vermicomposting vs Traditional Composting

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food-waste1Composting with worms or vermicomposting has several advantages over traditional composting. A worm bin can be kept indoors where adding kitchen waste is handy. Vermicompost (castings) are a superior compost in that they contain beneficial soil microbes, polysaccharides, proteins and other nitrogenous compounds. Studies confirm that vermicompost is at least 4 times more nutritive than conventional cattle dung compost. In Argentina, farmers who use vermicompost consider it to be seven (7) times richer than conventional composts in nutrients and growth promoting values.

A large portion of household garbage is compostable organic matter so we can reduce our weekly load to the curb and lengthen the lifespan of our landfills. There’s a strong impact on the environment by recycling; vermicomposting is recycling material that often currently goes to the garbage. Organic matter buried in a landfill becomes anaerobic, releases methane (said to be a larger contributor to climate change than even CO2. Plant nutrients are wasted. Composting or vermicomposting reuses these nutrients to grow more food or other plants by returning them to the soil. Vermicomposting helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also strengthening soil and future crops. Having plants covering soil rather than bare soil helps to prevent CO2 from leaving the soil into the atmosphere and actually helps to return CO2 from the atmosphere back to the soil in more useful forms. The biology in worm compost helps to keep soil in an aerobic state.  Composts work as a ‘slow-release fertilizer’ whereas chemical fertilizers release their nutrients rather quickly in soil and soon get depleted or washed into the watershed with the first rain. Earthworms and vermicompost can promote growth from 50 to 100% over conventional compost and 30 to 40% over chemical fertilizers at a much more economical cost (at least 50- 75% less) as compared to costly chemical fertilizers.

Heavy use of chemical fertilizers since the 1960’s increased  food production , but at the cost of the environment & health of humanity. It killed the beneficial soil organisms, caused problems with erosion and compaction and destroyed natural fertility. The death of soil microbiology impaired the power of ‘biological resistance’ in crops making them more susceptible to pests and diseases. This susceptibility to disease led to a new industry of providing more chemicals in the form of herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and the spraying of deadly toxins on our food supply and the cost of production to increase. As the 21st century rolled around many of the “pest” organisms began to develop immunity to the poisons leading to research into genetic modification to use even more deadly poisons or provide pest resistance to crops. Pest resistance that the plants naturally had before mankind began thinking he could do better than nature.

Earthworms improve soil fertility and boost crop production by the use of their excretory products – ‘vermicast’. They excrete beneficial soil microbes, and secrete polysaccharides, proteins and other nitrogenous compounds into the soil. Earthworms promote soil aggregation, aeration, and bring about ‘soil loosening and dispersion in farmlands. Worm activity can increase air-soil volume from 8-30% and provide disease and pest resistance. One acre of land can contain up to 3 million earthworms; the activities of which can bring up to 8-10 tons of ‘top soil’ to the surface (in the form of worm casting) every year. Presence of worms regenerate compacted soils and improves water penetration in such soils by over 50%. One U.S. study indicates that 10,000 worms in a farm plot provides the same benefit as three farmers working 8 hour shifts year round with 10 tons of manure applied in the plot.

With all the benefits of earthworms and vermicast to our food production, environment and our health, using them at home to reduce our waste and fertilize our gardens becomes a “no brainer”

Larry Shier
 

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