Applications are invited for suitably qualified earthworms.

Applications are invited for suitably qualified earthworms.

 

What makes a good composting worm?

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In one of our earlier articles about “all earthworms not being created equal”, we highlighted the role of epigeic type earthworms and their importance in managing high volumes of organic waste. Without them, our health and the environment would have been under serious threat.

Occasionally, however, we are often asked by the general public “why can’t I just use the earthworms in my backyard?” We would like to take this opportunity to share some knowledge on the ideal composting worm.  As we indicated earlier epigeic earthworms are preferred for vermicomposting because of their habitat and diet preference. However, not all epigeic species are a qualified for vermicomposting. Suitably qualified earthworms should, therefore, possess the following characteristics:

1. The selected earthworm should be able to survive the vermicomposting environment. This is a controlled environment which is mainly characterized by high levels of organic matter. The suitable applicant should, therefore, be able to acclimatize very quickly to slight variations in humidity,  temperature, salinity, and pH.

2. The selected earthworm must be able to efficiently bio-convert varying types of organic wastes. Candidates will be exposed to a wide variety of waste streams and are therefore expected to recycle these wastes in the shortest time possible, producing a finished product that is environmentally safe.

3. The selected earthworm must also display adaptive survival strategies such as rapid breeding without the use of any artificial enhancing stimulants. The success and growth of the vermicomposting system are solely reliant on the rapid development of successive generations. It is therefore imperative that the suitable applicant is able to reproduce exponentially. Please note that more rooms will be built to mitigate overcrowding. Applicants who display a slow-growth and low waste-conversion rate will not be considered.

4. The suitable applicant should also demonstrate a high resistance to pests and pathogens that would tend to affect earthworms.

5. The selected earthworm must be culturable, the behavioral traits of selected applicants in response to handling by hand or any form of mechanization is also very important. The selected earthworm should, therefore, allow for easy sorting and separation of worms from castings. Earthworms are also expected to remain at their place of work at all times as mass departures could be an indication of unfitness for the job.

Please be mindful that, it is based on the aforementioned characteristics that three known epigeic species (Eisenia fetida, Perionyx excavatus, and Eudrilus eugeniae) have been reported as most suitable for vermicomposting. 

 

M. Martin 

All earthworms are not created equal

All earthworms are not the same! Really? Yes really! 🙂 I often find myself clarifying this notion during my encounters with different people but don’t worry, I once held the same view.

There are currently over 3600 species of earthworms reported and they also vary in colour and size. These are further subdivided based on their distribution in the soil profile and how they feed. Epigeic earthworms live in the uppermost 5-10 cm of the soil surface and are considered as phytophagous because they feed primarily on decaying organic matter. They are typically found in areas with high organic matter deposits and good soil cover. They are usually dark pigmented and sensitive to light and touch. They are not considered as the burrowing type because they have minimal direct influence on soil structure. Epigeic earthworms are however highly suitable for vermicomposting.  Endogeic earthworms live beneath the soil surface in lateral burrows as deep as 30-40 cm and a are considered as geophagous because they primarily thrive on humus rich soil.  They play an important role in detoxing the soil of contaminants and excreting pH balanced soil which helps improve soil fertility. Anecic earthworms live in vertical burrows which go deep (90cm) into the soil profile. They consume both soil and organic matter and are therefore regarded as geo-phytophagous. Their feeding behavior greatly contributes to soil fertility as they continuously pull organic matter to lower soil horizons. Some studies have mentioned their use in the field of vermicomposting, however, the most suitable are epigeic. It is important to note however that not all epigeics are suitable for vermicomposting. I guess you may be asking, “Which ones are the best for vermicomposting?” Well, look out for our subsequent article which will characterize these worms.

M. Martin