By Umair Ashraf and Dr. Shakeel Ahmad Anjum
NO DOUBT, worlds population is increasing day by day and modern farming also contributing a lot in the provision of food, fiber and shelter while environmental safety has been a major issue from last few decades due to the practices performed in the modern agriculture and in flourishing industries. Modern agriculture is a type of farming where maximum production is achieved in minimum time by applying chemical fertilizers, pesticides, plant growth promoters etc which made the environment more vulnerable and a threat to bio safety. In this situation, use of such products and practices must be encouraged which are eco-friendly, balanced and organic in nature which make the soil-plant-environment relationship stronger and healthier.
Composting is an ancient method of organic fertilization, Wormcompost (also known as vermicompost), produced under mesophilic conditions is an especially high-grade and nutrient-rich fertilizer. Vermicomposting is a low-technology and eco-friendly process used in organic farming (a set of practices that conserves available resources and the environment without compromising human necessities) as an alternative to chemical fertilizers, in greenhouses as potting media and to treat organic waste. This black colored material is “what remains of organic matter after being decomposed by worms.”
The waste material is transformed into a stable and safer product, suitable for soil application, therefore, vermicompost is gaining acceptance now a days as an organic fertilizer which improves soil properties especially soil organic carbon and plant growth. In long-term effects, it increases the humic/fulvic acid ratio, improves soil absorption and biological properties as well as structure of the soil biological community. Earthworms play their role as mechanical blenders and modify the physical and chemical status of organic matter by enhancing the surface area exposed to micro-organisms and by reducing the C:N ratio thus make it more suitable for further decomposition. Vermicompost stimulates the growth of various plant species including field crops (sorghum and rice), horticultural crops (garlic, tomato, green gram, pepper, sweet corn and strawberry), fruit crops (banana and papaya), ornamentals (marigolds, geranium, petunia, poinsettia and chrysanthemum) and forestry species (eucalyptus acacia and pine tree) and has a positive effect on aromatic and medicinal plants too. On the other hand variability does exist in these effects which sometimes reduces plant growth and may cause its death. The extent of variability depends upon (i) cultivation system (ii) physical, chemical and biological properties of vermicompost which depend on the original feed stock of earthworms their production mechanism and the age of the vermicompost (iii) plant species and variety.
Vermicullture (culture of earthworms), earthworm are raises which requires suitable environmental conditions i.e., temperatre (55-85 0F), humidity (60 to 85 per cent), pH (4.2 to 8.0) and good aeration conditions. These worms can consume about three times or more than their weight in a week. An organic farmer can convert approximately 6 to 8 pounds of organics into vermicompost per week. Using earth worms as converters of organic waste not only takes less time than hot composting but is far superior than conventional compost. In vermoicompost, about 97 percent nutrients are utilizable by the plants.
It also provides an on-site recycling of waste. Earthworm castings indicated that they are richer in plant nutrients than soil, having about three times more calcium and several times more nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. It has been estimated that earthworms add 230 and 165 kg N ha-1 per year in grasslands and in woodland sites, respectively. So, Vermitechnology can be a promising technique that has shown its potential in several challenging tasks like waste recycling, solid waste management and augmentation of food production etc. Increase in fertility and productivity of land and production of safe and nutritive food can be achieved by managing the on-side pollution and waste management and making sure its use in our farming systems rather to use synthetic products.