AS  Vol.1 No.2 , August 2010
The wonders of earthworms & its vermicompost in farm production: Charles Darwin’s ‘friends of farmers’, with potential to replace destructive chemical fertilizers
Earthworms and its excreta (vermicast) promises to usher in the ‘Second Green Revolution’ by completely replacing the destructive agro chemicals which did more harm than good to both the farmers and their farmland. Earthworms restore & improve soil fertility and significantly boost crop productivity. Earthworms excreta (vermicast) is a nutritive ‘organic fertilizer’ rich in humus, NKP, micronutrients, beneficial soil microbes—‘nitrogenfixing & phosphate solubilizing bacteria’ & ‘actinomycets’ and growth hormones ‘auxins’, ‘gibberlins’ & ‘cytokinins’. Both earthworms and its vermicast & body liquid (vermiwash) are scientifically proving as both ‘growth promoters & protectors’ for crop plants. In our experiments with corn & wheat crops, tomato and eggplants it displayed excellent growth performances in terms of height of plants, color & texture of leaves, appearance of flowers & fruits, seed ears etc. as compared to chemical fertilizers and the conventional compost. There is also less incidences of ‘pest & disease attack’ and ‘reduced demand of water’ for irrigation in plants grown on vermicompost. Presence of live earthworms in soil also makes significant difference in flower and fruit formation in vegetable crops. Composts work as a ‘slowrelease fertilizer’ whereas chemical fertilizers release their nutrients rather quickly in soil and soon get depleted. Significant amount of ‘chemical nitrogen’ is lost from soil due to oxidation in sunlight. However, with application of vermicompost the ‘organic nitro gen’ tends to be released much faster from the excreted ‘humus’ by worms and those mineralised by them and the net overall efficiency of nitrogen (N) is considerably greater than that of chemical fertilizers. Availability of phosphorus (P) is sometimes much greater. Our study sh ows that earthworms and vermicompost can promote growth from 50 to 100% over conventional compost & 30 to 40% over chemical fertilizers besides protecting the soil and the agro ecosystem while producing ‘nutritive and tasty food’ at a much economical cost (at least 50 75% less) as compared to the costly chemical fertilizers.

Cite this paper
nullSinha, R. , Agarwal, S. , Chauhan, K. and Valani, D. (2010) The wonders of earthworms & its vermicompost in farm production: Charles Darwin’s ‘friends of farmers’, with potential to replace destructive chemical fertilizers. Agricultural Sciences, 1, 76-94. doi: 10.4236/as.2010.12011.
[1]   Arancon, N. (2004) An interview with Dr. Norman Arancon. Casting Call, 9(2), http://www.vermico. com

[2]   US Board of Agriculture, (1980) Report and recom mendations on organic farming—case studies of 69 organic farmers in USA. Publication of U.S. Board of Agriculture.

[3]   Kale, R.D. (1998) Earthworm cinderella of organic far ming. Prism Book Pvt Ltd, Bangalore, 88.

[4]   Martin, J.P. (1976) Darwin on earthworms: The forma tion of vegetable moulds. Bookworm Publishing, Ontario.

[5]   Satchell, J.E. (1983) Earthworm ecologyfrom darwin to vermiculture. Chapman and Hall Ltd., London.

[6]   Sadhale, N. (1996) Recommendation to incorporate earthworms in soil of pomogranate to obtain high quality fruits. Surpala’s Vrikshayurveda, Verse 131. The Science of Plant Life by Surpala, 10th Century A.D. Asian AgriHistory Bulletin, Secunderabad.

[7]   Bhat, J.V. and Khambata, P. (1996) Role of earthworms in agriculture. Pub. Of Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), 22, New Delhi, India, 36.

[8]   Ghabbour, S.I. (1973) Earthworm in agriculture: A modern evaluation. Indian Review of Ecological and Biological Society, 111(2), 259271.

[9]   Capowiez, Y., Cadoux S., Bouchand P., RogerEstrade, J., Richard G. and Boizard, H. (2009) Experimental evidence for the role of earthworms in compacted soil regeneration based on field observations and results from a semifield experiment. Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 41(4), 711717.

[10]   Li, K.M. (2005) Vermiculture Industry in Circular Economy, Worm Digest. tent/view/135/2/

[11]   Bhawalkar, V.U. and Bhawalkar, U.S. (1993) Vermiculture: The bionutrition system. national seminar on indigenous technology for sustainable agriculture. Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi, 18.

[12]   Bombatkar, V. (1996) The miracle called compost. The Other India Press, Pune.

[13]   Singh, R.D. (1992) Harnessing the earthworms for sustainable agriculture. Publication of Institute of National Organic Agriculture, Pune, 116.

[14]   Ayres, M. (2007) Suppression of soil—born plant disease using compost. 3rd National Compost Research and Development Forum Organized by COMPOST Australia, Murdoch University, Perth. Ayres.

[15]   Webster, K. (2007) Compost as part of a vineyard salinity remediation strategy. 3rd National Compost Research and Development Forum Organized by COMPOST Australia, Murdoch University, Perth. www.compostforsoils.

[16]   Suhane, R. K. (2007) Vermicompost. Publication of Rajendra Agriculture University, Pusa, Bihar, India, 88.

[17]   Munroe, G. (2007) Manual of Onfarm Vermicomposting and Vermiculture. Publication of Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada, Nova Scotia.

[18]   Pajon, S. (2007) The Worms TurnArgentina. Intermediate Technology Development Group. Case Study Series 4; Quoted in Munroe. 1450&lang=English

[19]   Canellas. L.P., Olivares, F.L., Okorokova, A.L. and Facanha, R.A. (2002) Humic Acids Isolated from Earthworm Compost Enhance Root Elongation, Lateral Root Emergence, and Plasma Membrane H+ ATPase Activity in Maize Roots. Journal of Plant Physiology, 130(4), 19511957.

[20]   Pierre, V, Phillip, R. Margnerite, L. and Pierrette, C. (1982) Antibacterial activity of the haemolytic system from the earthworms Eisinia foetida Andrei. Invertebrate Pathology, 40(1), 2127.

[21]   Atiyeh, R.M., Subler, S., Edwards, C.A., Bachman, G., Metzger, J.D. and Shuster, W. (2000) Effects of Vermicomposts and Composts on Plant Growth in Horticultural Container Media and Soil. Pedobiologia, 44(5), 579590.

[22]   Agarwal, S. (1999) Study of vermicomposting of domestic waste and the effects of vermicompost on growth of some vegetable crops. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur.

[23]   Tognetti, C., Laos, F., Mazzarino, M.J. and Hernandez, M.T. (2005) Composting vs. vermicomposting: A comparison of end product quality. Journal of Compost Science & Utilization, 13(1), 613.

[24]   Sinha, R. K. and Gokul, B. (2007) Vermiculture revolution: rapid composting of waste organics with improved compost quality for healthy plant growth while reducing ghg emissions. 3rd National Compost Research and Development Forum Organized by COMPOST Australia, Murdoch University, Perth. http:// www. compostforsoils.

[25]   Jadia, C.D. and Fulekar, M.H. (2008) Vermicomposting of vegetable wastes: A biophysiochemical process based on hydrooperating bioreactor. African Journal of Biotechnology, 7(20), 37233730.

[26]   Reganold, J.P., Papendick, R.I.P. and James, F. (1990) Sustainable Agriculture. Scientific American, 262(6), 112120.

[27]   Sinha, R.K., Herat, S., Valani, D. and Chauhan, K. (2009) Vermiculture and sustainable agriculture. American Eurasian Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; IDOSI Publication, 155.

[28]   Scheu, S. (1987) Microbial activity and nutrient dynamics in earthworms casts. Journal of Biological Fertility Soils, 5(3), 230234.

[29]   Binet, F., Fayolle, L. and Pussard, M. (1998) Significance of earthworms in stimulating soil microbial activity. Biology and Fertility of Soils, 27(2), 7984.

[30]   Chaoui, H.I., Zibilske, L.M. and Ohno, T. (2003) Effects of earthworms casts and compost on soil microbial activity and plant nutrient availability. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 35(2), 295302.

[31]   Tiwari, S.C., Tiwari, B.K. and Mishra, R.R. (1989) Microbial populations, enzyme activities and nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium enrichment in earthworm casts and in surrounding soil of a pineapple plantation. Journal of Biological Fertility of Soils, 8(1), 178182.

[32]   Kale, R.D. and Bano, K. (1986) Field trials with vermicompost, an organic fertilizer. Proceeding of National Seminar on ‘Organic Waste Utilization by Vermicomposting, GKVK Agricultural University, Bangalore.

[33]   Anonymous (2001) Vermicompost as Insect Repellent. Biocycle.

[34]   Edwards, C.A. and Arancon, N. (2004) Vermicompost Supress Plant Pests and Disease Attacks. Rednova News,

[35]   Rodríguez, J.A., Zavaleta, E., Sanchez, P. and Gonzalez, H. (2000) The effect of vermicompost on plant nutrition, yield and incidence of root and crown rot of Gerbera (Gerbera jamesonii H Bolus). Fitopathologia, 35(2), 6679.

[36]   Buchanan, M.A., Russel, E. and Block, S.D. (1988) Chemical characterization and nitrogen mineralisation potentials of vermicompost derived from differing organic wastes. In: Edward, C.A. and Neuhauser, E.F., Eds., Earthworms in Waste and Environmental Management, SPB Academic Publishing, The Hague, 231240.

[37]   Patil, B.B. (1993) Soil and Organic Farming. Proceeding of the Training Program on ‘Organic Agriculture, Institute of Natural and Organic Agriculture, Pune.

[38]   Barley, K.P. and Jennings A.C. (1959) Earthworms and soil fertility III; The influence of earthworms on the availability of nitrogen. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research, 10(3), 364370.

[39]   Dash, M.C. and Patra, U.C. (1979) Worm cast production and nitrogen contribution to soil by a tropical earthworm population from a grassland site in Orissa. Indian Review of Ecological and Biological Society, 16(4), 7983.

[40]   Whalen, J.K., Parmelee, W.R., McCartnney, A.D. and Vanarsdale, J.L. (1999) Movement of nitrogen (n) from decomposing earthworm tissue to soil microbial and nitrogen pools. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 31(4), 487492.

[41]   Lee, K.E. (1985) Earthworms, their ecology and relationships with soil and land use. Academic Press, Sydney.

[42]   Satchel, J.E. and Martin, K. (1984) Phosphatase activity in earthworm feces. Journal of Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 16(2), 191194.

[43]   Li, K. and Li, P.Z. (2010) Earthworms helping economy, improving ecology and protecting health. In: Sinha, R.K. et. al., Eds. Special Issue on ‘Vermiculture Technology’, International Journal of Environmental Engineering, Inderscience Pub. (Accepted).

[44]   Tomati, V., Grappelli, A. and Galli, E. (1985) Fertility factors in earthworm humus. Proceedings of International Symposium on ‘Agriculture and Environment: Prospects in Earthworm Farming, Rome, 4956.

[45]   Edwards, C.A. and Burrows, I. (1988) The potential of earthworms composts as plant growth media. In: Edward, C.A. and Neuhauser, E.F. Eds., ‘Earthworms in Waste and Environmental Management’, SPB Academic Publishing, The Hague, 2132.

[46]   Neilson, R.L. (1965) Presence of plant growth substances in earthworms. Nature, 208(5015), 11131114.

[47]   Tomati, U. Grappelli, A. and Galli, E. (1987) The Presence of Growth Regulators in EarthwormWorked Wastes. Proceeding of International Symposium on ‘Earthworms’, BolognaCarpi, 423436.

[48]   Tomati, V., Grappelli, A. and Galli, E. (1995) The Hormone like Effect of Earthworm Casts on Plant Growth. Biology and Fertility of Soils, 5(4), 288294.

[49]   Ansari, A.A. (2008) Effect of Vermicompost on the Productivity of Potato (Solanum tuberosum) Spinach (Spin acia oleracea) and Turnip (Brassica campestris). World Journal of Agricultural Sciences, 4(3), 333336.

[50]   Yardim, E.N., Arancon, N.Q., Edwards, C.A., Oliver, T.J. and Byrne, R.J. (2006) Suppression of tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata) and cucumber beetles (Aca lymma vittatum and Diabotrica undecimpunctata) populations and damage by vermicomposts. Pedobiologia, 50(1), 2329.

[51]   Arancon, N.Q., Edwards, C.A. and Lee, S. (2002) Management of plant parasitic nematode population by use of vermicomposts. Proceedings of Brighton Crop Protection ConferencePests and Diseases, Brighton, 2002, 705716.

[52]   Edwards, C.A., Arancon, N.Q., Emerson, E. and Pulliam, R. (2007) Suppressing plant parasitic nematodes and arthropod pests with vermicompost teas. BioCycle, 48(12), 3839.

[53]   Baker, G.H., Williams, P.M., Carter, P.J. and Long, N.R. (1997) Influence of lumbricid earthworms on yield and quality of wheat and clover in glasshouse trials. Journal of Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 29(3/4), 599602.

[54]   Baker, G.H., Brown, G., Butt K., Curry, J.P. and Scullion, J. (2006) Introduced earthworms in agricultural and reclaimed land: Their ecology and influences on soil properties, plant production and other soil biota. Biological Invasions, 8(6), 13011316.

[55]   Krishnamoorthy, R.V. and Vajranabhaiah, S.N. (1986) biological activity of earthworm casts: An assessment of plant growth promoter levels in the casts. Proceedings of Indian Academy of Sciences (Animal Science), 95(3), 341351.

[56]   Palanisamy, S. (1996) Earthworm and plant interactions. ICAR Training Program, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore.

[57]   Roberts, P, Jones, G.E. and Jones, D.L. (2007) Yield responses of wheat (Triticum aestivum) to vermicompost. Journal of Compost Science and Utilization, 15(1), 615.

[58]   Suthar, S. (2005) Effect of vermicompost and inorganic fertilizer on wheat (Triticum aestivum) production. Nature Environment Pollution Technology, 5(2), 197201.

[59]   Suthar, S. (2010) Vermicompost: An environmentally safe, economically viable and socially acceptable nutritive fertilizer for sustainable farming; In: Sinha, R.K. et al., Eds. Special Issue on ‘Vermiculture Technology, Journal of Environmental Engineering; Inderscience Pub. (Accepted).

[60]   Kale, R.D., Mallesh, B.C., Kubra, B. and Bagyaraj, D.J. (1992) Influence of vermicompost application on the available macronutrients and selected microbial populations in a paddy field. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 24(12), 13171320.

[61]   Jeyabal, A. and Kuppuswamy, G. (2001) Recycling of organic wastes for the production of vermicompost and its response in rice—legume cropping system and soil fertility. European Journal of Agronomy, 15(13), 153 170.

[62]   Guerrero, R.D. and Guerrero, L.A. (2008) Effect of vermicompost on the yield of upland rice in outdoor containers. Asia Life Sciences, 17(1), 145149.

[63]   Buckerfield, J.C. and Webster, K.A. (1998) Worm worked waste boost grape yield: Prospects for vermicompost use in vineyards. The Australian and New Zealand Wine Industry Journal, 13(1), 7376.

[64]   Singh, R., Sharma, R.R., Kumar, S., Gupta, R.K. and Patil, R.T. (2008) Vermicompost substitution influences growth, physiological disorders, fruit yield and quality of strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa Duch), Bioresource Technology, 99(17), 85078511.

[65]   Webster, K.A. (2005) Vermicompost increases yield of cherries for three years after a single application. EcoResearch, South Australia.

[66]   Atiyeh, R.M., Subler, S., Edwards, C.A. and Metzger, J.D. (1999) Growth of Tomato Plants in Horticultural Potting Media Amended with Vermicompost. Pedobiologia, 43(4), 15.

[67]   Gupta, A.K., Pankaj, P.K. and Upadhyava, V. (2008) Effect of vermicompost, farm yard manure, biofertilizer and chemical fertilizers (N, P, K) on growth, yield and quality of lady’s finger (Abelmoschus esculentus). Pollution Research, 27(1), 6568.

[68]   Guerrero, R.D. and Guerrero, L.A. (2006) Response of eggplant (Solanum melongena) grown in plastic containers to vermicompost and chemical fertilizer. Asia Life Sciences, 15(2), 199204.

[69]   Agarwal, S, Sinha, R.K. and Sharma, J. (2010) Vermiculture for sustainable horticulture: Agronomic impact studies of earthworms, cow dung compost and vermicompost visàvis chemical fertilizers on growth and yield of lady’s finger (Abelmoschus esculentus). In: Sinha, R.K. et al., Eds., Special Issue on ‘Vermiculture Technology’, International Journal of Environmental Engineering, Inderscience Pub.

[70]   Meena, R.N., Singh, Y., Singh, S.P., Singh, J.P. and Singh, K. (2007) effect of sources and level of organic manure on yield, quality and economics of garden pea (Pisum sativam L.) in eastern uttar pradesh. Vegetable Science, 34(1), 6063.

[71]   Karmegam, N. and Daniel, T. (2008) Effect of vermicompost and chemical fertilizer on growth and yield of Hyacinth Bean (Lablab purpureas). Dynamic Soil, Dynamic Plant, Global Science Books, 2(2), 7781. kanishka

[72]   Sharma, R. (2001) Vermiculture for sustainable agriculture: study of the agronomic impact of earthworms and their vermicompost on growth and production of wheat crops, Ph.D. Thesis, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur.

[73]   Buckerfield, J.C., Flavel, T.C., Lee, K.E. and Webster, K.A. (1999) Vermicompost in solid and liquid forms as a plant—growth promoter. Pedobiologia, 43(6), 753759.

[74]   Giraddi, R.S. (2003) Method of extraction of earthworm wash: A plant promoter substance. VIIth National Symposium on Soil Biology and Ecology, Bangalore.

[75]   Thangavel, P., Balagurunathan, R., Divakaran, J. and Prabhakaran, J. (2003) effect of vermiwash and vermicast extract on soil nutrient status, growth and yield of paddy. Advances of Plant Sciences, 16(1), 187190.

[76]   Saumaya, G., Giraddi, R.S. and Patil, R.H. (2007) Utility of vermiwash for the management of thrips and mites on chilli (capiscum annum) amended with soil organics. Karnataka Journal of Agriculture Sciences, 20(3), 657 659.

[77]   Suthar, S. (2010) Evidence of plant hormone like substances in vermiwash: An ecologically safe option of synthetic chemicals for sustainable farming. Journal of Ecological Engineering, 36(8), 10891092.

[78]   CRIDA (2009) Vermicompost from Waste; Pub. Of Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture; Hyderabad, (Unit of Indian Council for Agricultural Research).

[79]   Lotzof, M. (2000) Vermiculture: An Australian Technology Success Story. Waste Management Magazine.

[80]   NCSU (1997) Large Scale Vermicomposting Operations —Data from Vermicycle Organics, Inc., North Carolina State University, Raleigh.

[81]   White, S. (1997) A Vermiadventure in India. Journal of Worm Digest, 15(1), 2730.

[82]   Bogdanov, P. (2004) The single largest producer of vermicompost in world. In: Bogdanov, P. Ed., Casting Call, 9(3).

[83]   Sinha, R.K. (1998) Embarking on the second green revolution for sustainable agriculture in India: A judicious mix of traditional wisdom and modern knowledge in ecological farming. Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics, Kluwer Acad. Pub., Dordrecht, 183197.

[84]   Sinha, R.K. (2004) Sustainable Agriculture. Surabhee Publication, Jaipur, 370.

[85]   Grappelli, A., Tomati, V., Galli, E. and Vergari, B. (1985) Earthworm Casting in Plant Propagation. Journal of Horticultural Science, 20(5), 874876.

[86]   Appelhof, M. (2003) Notable Bits. WormEzine, 2(5),