earthworms

Organic farming: Why should farmers start an earthworm wormery? Basic tips.

WHY SHOULD FARMERS START A WORMERY?

  • An earthworm converts organic material into organic fertiliser and worm castings that is rich in humus.
  • The number of micro-organisms, such as beneficial bacteria in ordinary soil, increases up to 1 000 times once the soil has been ingested and passed through the earthworm gut. Commercial farmers planting significant acreages often judge their soil health by first looking at the number of earthworms.
  • A golf ball-sized piece of worm castings contains about 5 billion living organisms and can feed an average pot plant for up to six months.
  • Worm castings are richer in nitrogen, phosphates, calcium and magnesium than the best topsoil, and will never burn seed or crops.
  • In addition, all elements of worm castings are immediately available as plant food and are water-soluble.
  • Worm tea can be used as liquid plant food and a natural pesticide.

Also read: Earthworm tea gives soil life a kickstart

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WORM TEA AND WORM LEACHATE?

Worm leachate is the fluid that gathers at the bottom of the worm farm or bin. You can collect the leachate and dilute it 10 : 1 with water before adding it to your garden or orchard.

Worm tea is made by soaking a handful of worm castings in 5 litres of warm rain, spring or well water for one to two days. Don’t use municipal water that has been chlorinated because the chlorine will kill all the microbes.

The number of microbes can be boosted by adding a tablespoonful of molasses to the tea. The worm tea can be diluted 1 : 5 for plants or filtered and used in hydroponics systems.

WHEN TO START

Worm farming needs a shift in thinking away from conventional chemical-driven agriculture. The main principle is to reduce, re-use and recycle waste, starting with dry paper, metal, plastic, glass, composting greens and manures. Only then will one be ready for worm farming.

Compost and vermi-compost (worm compost) benefit the environment, soil health and, in the long-term, soil quality. A holistic approach to soil health is necessary and farmers should avoid compacting the soil, and adopt no-till practices.

CAN I CONSTRUCT MY OWN BIN?

One can construct a bin made from an ordinary plastic rubbish bin, but if there is an outlet nearby for a worm bin, there is generally free after-sales service and back-up expertise.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Earthworms live in dead and decaying plant or animal waste. Micro-organisms like bacteria, fungi, protozoa and pathogens in the waste are the primary food source of the earthworms – not the actual waste material.

Earthworms move through the organic waste, ingest, digest and excrete it. In the process pathogens are removed and the number of beneficial micro-organisms is greatly increased.

 

Earthworms are the farmer’s friend. Anyone can build a worm bin following the basic diagram shown here.
Earthworms are the farmer’s friend. Anyone can build a worm bin following the basic diagram shown here.

For more information go to www.ru.ac.za/environment/resources/wormfarming/

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