Last week we sent out our monthly newsletter and got a surprise email back from Larry Stebbins over at Pikes Peak Urban Gardens. Earlier this month we took a large donation of worm castings over to PPUG at Harlan Wolfe Ranch and they have been putting it to great use even this late in the growing season! You can see the load of worm castings we left for them in the first picture.
“Hi All, we have been using your worm castings as a light mulch over our newly planted carrots, beets, Swiss chard and spinach. The germination has been fantastic. We will be recommending this practice to our gardeners”. – Larry Stebbins
We cannot thank Larry enough for the kind words and the pictures he passed along for us to see and use.
Worm Castings and Sustainable Agriculture: Part 3 of 3
Eric L. Zielinski
According to U.S. Code Title 7, Chapter 64 § 3103, the term “sustainable agriculture” means an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will, over the long-term…
- Satisfy human food and fiber needs;
- Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agriculture economy depends;
- Make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls;
- Sustain the economic viability of farm operations; and
- Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.
What sustainability looks like today
To maintain this healthy list of to-dos, the U.S. Government has enacted several provisions to strive toward sustainable agriculture including no-till farming, genetically modifying food crops to minimize pesticide use, and organic methods like composting. Typically, the more organic techniques are over-shadowed by Big Ag methods and most people don’t talk about things like worm castings. Sadly, this has done a grave disservice to our nation.
According to the scientific journal, Springer Plus, researchers have proven the fascinating ability worms have in achieving agricultural and ecological diversity. The sections below highlight some key topics to this discussion and direct quotes from their study.
“As the organic matter passes through the gizzard of the earthworm it is grounded into a fine powder after which the digestive enzymes, microorganisms and other fermenting substances act on them further aiding their breakdown within the gut, and finally passes out in the form of ‘casts’ which are later acted upon by earthworm gut associated microbes converting them into mature product, the ‘vermicomposts.’”
True Sustainability: Vermicompost
“Earthworms are capable of transforming garbage into ‘gold.’ [They] play an essential role in carbon turnover, soil formation, participates in cellulose degradation and humus accumulation. Earthworm activity profoundly affects the physical, chemical and biological properties of soil.”
No-till farming is the solution, really? What about worm-tilled farming?
“Earthworm activity engineers the soil by forming extensive burrows which loosen the soil and makes it porous. These pores improve aeration, water absorption, drainage and easy root penetration. Soil aggregates formed by earthworms and associated microbes, in the casts and burrow walls play an indispensible role in soil air ecosystem. These aggregates are mineral granules bonded in a way to resist erosion and to avoid soil compaction both in wet and dry condition. Earthworms speed up soil reclamation and make them productive by restoring beneficial micro flora. Thus degraded unproductive soils and land degraded by mining could be engineered physically, chemically and biologically and made productive by earthworms. Hence earthworms are termed as ‘ecosystem engineers.’”
Worms: Nature’s waste management system:
“Several enzymes, intestinal mucus and antibiotics in earthworm’s intestinal tract play an important role in the breakdown of organic macromolecules. Biodegradable organic wastes such as crop residues, municipal, hospital and industrial wastes pose major problems in disposal and treatment. Release of unprocessed animal manures into agricultural fields contaminates ground water causing public health risk. Vermicomposting is the best alternative to conventional composting and differs from it in several ways. Vermicomposting hastens the decomposition process by 2–5 times, thereby quickens the conversion of wastes into valuable bio fertilizer and produces much more homogenous materials compared to thermophilic composting.”
- Biomedical waste
- Horticultural residues from processed potatoes
- Mushroom wastes
- Horse wastes
- Pig wastes
- Brewery wastes
- Sericulture wastes
- Municipal sewage sludge
- Agricultural residues
- Cattle dung
- Industrial refuse such as paper wastes
- Sludge from paper mills and dairy plants
- Domestic kitchen wastes
- Urban residues and animal wastes can be vermicomposted
The benefits of vermicomposting are limitless. Not only do they provide unparalleled nutrients for soil and food crops, it holds an unbelievable ability to maintain our environment regardless of the pollutions we shove down its throat. Hopefully, agricultural authorities will one day see the true benefits of utilizing earthworms and forget ridiculous notions like genetically modifying foods to protect our land.