Vermiculture means the cultivation of earthworms to use them to convert organic waste to nutrient and beneficial microorganism rice fertilizer. It allows us to grow organically rich compost year-round. It was first introduced in the 1970s by a biology teacher, Mary Appelhif. She developed the idea of using red wiggler worms for composting in indoor and outdoor systems to convert kitchen waste to worm compost.
Earthworms that are commonly used are, Eisenia Andrei, Eisenia fetida, and Lumbricus rubellus horticultural in temperate climates and Pheretima Perionyx Hawanya Excavatus and Eudrilus Eugenia and the tropical areas.
There are three major techniques in vermiculture for harvesting worms. These are
- Manual Method of Harvesting: This method is generally used by framers for small-scale businesses selling worms. The worms are harvested from the soil directly by using hands. The organic material which contains earthworms is kept on a flat surface and exposed to sunlight. It should be noted that earthworms are sensitive to light, so once they are exposed to sunlight they dive below the surface. The harvester will then remove the organic layer above and once the worms are seen they are harvested.
- Migration Method of Harvesting: This method takes advantage of the earthworm’s tendency to migrate to a new location for food and this reason. It is carried out in two ways. 1. Downward migration method is where the worms are forced to move downwards in the organic material with the use of light. They will go through the screen mesh and be collected in the container box below which is filled with peat moss. The process is repeated until the required quantity of worms has been achieved. It is a time-saving process and can be seen in multiple locations. 2. Upward migration, the mesh bottom of the box would be replaced by a warm bed. The box will be filled with peat moss and food which attracts the worms. Generally, coffee grounds and manure from fresh cattle are used as food for worms and they will move towards it and be collected in the box.
- Mechanical Method of Harvesting: It is used to collect worms. It is a trammel screen which is called a rotary screen that is used to separate materials. It is around 11ft long and 4ft in diameter and has a cylindrical shape. The walls of the cylinder are made of screening materials with different sized meshes. The cylinder is powered by an electric motor. The device would be set at an angle at the top side of the trammel. After that, the castings and the worm beds are added. When the rotation starts the castings of the worms will drop through the screen and the worms will move across the trammel device and enter into the wheelbarrow.
Materials Need for Vermicomposting
- Crop residues.
- Vegetable waste.
- Cattle dung.
- Dried leaves.
- Water supply.
- Waste from agro-industries.
- A suitable container.