Like any field that is biological in nature, yet enjoyed by academics and laypersons alike, literature about vermicomposting is split into two distinct categories for two distinct audiences. Clinical studies are written by and for academia and industry experts. The content is intimidating and numbers-heavy, often including information the worm-raising layperson might find irrelevant. Topical articles like blog posts avoid gettin g deep in the weeds and stick to useful tips for the small vermicomposter. But while some helpful techniques are a product of trial and error, most useful knowledge on vermiculture and vermicomposting spawned from original research. Hobbyists and smaller-scale vermicomposters like us shouldn’t discount it.
Instead, we should seek it out where it has application to our own uses. One such study I found was conducted by two researchers, Swati Pattnaik and M. Vikram Reddy, at Pondicherry University in India. They conducted a 60-day study observing the vermicomposting effectiveness of 3 species of earthworms: Red Wiggler (Eisenia fetida), African Nightcrawler (Eudrilus eugenaie), and Indian Blue (Perionyx excavatus). The growth and reproduction of all species and the nutrient levels of their vermicast were observed in both precomposted floral waste and vegetable waste. The nutrient content of the base compost was used a control for the study.
A Summary of the Results:
- The vermicompost produced by all species was significantly more nutrient rich and microbially active than the compost alone.
- The Indian Blues exhibited the greatest growth in A) individual worm size and B) worm population. Red Wigglers and African Nightcrawlers came in 2nd and 3rd, respectively.
- All species grew in length and weight better in floral waste than in vegetable waste, but the nutrient status of the vermicompost was higher in vegetable waste than in floral waste.
- In a perfect world, given their rich cast and propensity to reproduce like rabbits, the Indian Blue or Perionyx excavatus is a better composting worm than the good ole’ Red Wiggler. But this statement is as useful as saying a Ferrari is a better car than a Honda Civic, when the Civic’s price tag, cost of maintenance, and ability to function in a wide range of climate conditions makes it a better choice for more people, me included. The Indian Blue is intolerant of conditions colder than 50 degrees F and will be known to engage in mass jailbreaks from their bedding when conditions aren’t just right. By contrast, the Red Wiggler is far more likely to stay put and tolerate our mistakes. Advantage: Red Wiggler.
- The best food for vermicast production isn‘t necessarily the best for reproduction, a statement that remains true if you substitute “moisture” for “food.” As simple as raising worms can seem, our results may be disappointing when we apply a single formula to each situation.
I hope to do more Reader’s Digest summaries of original research in the future, but in the meantime, I’d recommend perusing the bibliographies and citations at the end of scholarly articles. Find a citation that seems interesting to you and check it out! It won’t be a “6 Ways to Get Your Wigglers to Mate” sort of article, but you may find some nuggets of information not found elsewhere that can help you turn the corner from a frustrated newbie to your community’s expert on vermicomposting. You can also point to articles like this one to convince your friends who swear by conventional composting.
Do you have an original, scholarly piece of research you refer back to from time to time and would like to see added to the Urban Worm Company’s Research Page? If so, leave a message in the comments and e-mail me at email@example.com to receive 10% off your first order!