Vermicomposting vs Composting



Organic wastes can be broken down and fragmented rapidly by earthworms, resulting in a stable nontoxic material with good structure which has a potentially high economic value as soil conditioner for plant growth. Vermicompost is a finely divided peat like material with excellent structure, porosity, aeration, drainage and moisture-holding capacity. Low, medium and high technology systems are available. The low tech systems can be easily adapted and managed on small farms or livestock operations. Vermicompost supplies a suitable mineral balance, improves nutrient availability and could act as complex-fertilizer granules. As with the composting process, vermicomposting provides a great reduction in waste bulk density, although this tends to take longer.

Preliminary research in our laboratory showed that vermicomposting involves great reduction in populations of pathogenic microorganisms, thus not differing from composting from this point of view. Generally it is accepted that the thermophilic stage during the composting process eliminates the pathogen organisms, but we have shown that pathogens are eliminated during vermicomposting. As an aerobic process, composting leads to a nitrogen mineralization and the use of earthworms in vermicomposting increases and accelerates this nitrogen mineralization rate. The humification processes that take place during the maturation stage of composting are greater and faster during vermicomposting. Vermicomposting may also bring about a greater decrease of bioavailable heavy metals than in the composting process, and there is evidence that the final product may contain hormone like compounds which accelerate plant growth.

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