APPLICATION IN CROP PLANTS

There have been several reports that earthworms and its vermicompost can induce excellent plant growth and enhance crop production.

Cereal Crops

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Glasshouse studies made at CSIRO Australia found that the earthworms increased growth of wheat crops by 39%, grain yield by 35%, lifted protein value of the grain by 12% & resisted crop diseases as compared to the control.

The plants were grown in a “red-brown earth” with poor nutritional status and 60% moisture.

They also reported that in Parana, Brazil invasion of earthworms significantly altered soil structure and water holding capacity. The grain yields of wheat and soybean was increased by 47% and 51%, respectively .

Some studies were made on the impact of vermicompost and garden soil in different proportion on wheat crops in India. It was found that when the garden soil and vermicompost were mixed in 1:2 proportions, the growth was about 72% – 76% while in pure vermicompost, the growth increased by 82% – 89% .

Another study reported that earthworms & its vermicast improve the growth and yield of wheat by more than 40% .

Other studies also reported better yield and growth in wheat crops applied with vermicompost in soil. Studies made on the agronomic impacts of vermicompost on rice crops reported greater population of nitrogen fixers, actinomycetes and mycorrhizal fungi inducing better nutrient uptake by crops and better growth .

Fruit Crops

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Study found that worm waste (vermicompost) boosted grape yield by two-fold as compared to chemical fertilizers.

Treated vines with vermicompost produced 23% more grapes due to 18% increase in bunch numbers.

The yield in grapes was worth additional value . Farmer in El khataba , Egypt, grew grapes on “eroded wastelands” and applied vermicasting 2-5 Kg/tree .

The grape harvest was normal with improvement in quality, taste and shelf life. Soil analysis showed that within one year ph came down from 8.3 to 6.9 and the value of potash increased from 62.5 kg/ha to 800 kg/ha. There was also marked improvement in the nutritional quality of the grape fruits .

Study was made on the impacts of vermicompost and inorganic (chemical) fertilizers on strawberries when applied separately and in combination.

Vermicompost was applied 2 tons/ha while the inorganic fertilizers (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) 85 (N) 155 (P) 125 (K) kg/ha. Significantly, the yield of marketable strawberries and the weight of the largest fruit was 35% greater on plants grown on vermicompost as compared to inorganic fertilizers in 220 days after transplanting. Also there were 36% more “runners” and 40% more “flowers” on plants grown on vermicompost. Also, farm soils applied with vermicompost had significantly greater “microbial biomass” than the one applied with inorganic fertilizers. Studies also reported that vermicompost increased the yield of strawberries by 32.7% and drastically reduced the incidence of physiological disorders .

Vermincompost use increased the yield and quality of marketable strawberry fruits up to 58.6% . .

Vegetable Crops

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Studies on the production of important vegetable crops like tomato, eggplant, Bean , Onion Potatoes and okra have yielded very good results .

Another study was made on the growth impact of earthworms ,Vermicompost promoted excellent growth in the vegetable crop with more flowers and fruits development.

But the most significant observation was drastically less incidence of “Yellow Vein Mosaic”, “Color Rot” and “Powdery Mildew” diseases in worm and vermicompost applied plants .

Study was made on the production of potato by application of vermicompost in a reclaimed sodic soil in Sohag , Egypt.

The overall productivity of potato was significantly high on vermicompost applied. The sodicity of the soil was also reduced and nitrogen (N) contents increased significantly . Studies made on the effects of vermicompost & chemical fertilizer on the beans it was found that all growth & yield parameters e.g.

total chlorophyll contents in leaves, dry matter production, flower appearance, length of fruits and fruits per plant, dry weight of 100 seeds, yield per plot and yield per hectare were significantly higher in those plots which received vermicompost either alone or in combination with chemicals.

In addition to increasing plant growth and productivity, vermicompost may also increase the nutritional quality of some vegetable crops such as tomatoes , cabbage , spinach,, strawberries and lettuce

CONCLUSIONS

“Vermiculture Movement” is going on in Egypt with multiple objectives of community waste management, highly economical way of crop production, which replaces the costly chemical fertilizers, and poverty eradication programs in villages.

Vermicomposting to a nonprofessional simply means making of compost by worms by utilizing worm’s innate behavior. Vermicomposting process improves soil aeration and thereby promotes the survival and dispersal of the useful bacterium within such systems, which is slowly becoming clear day by day. Vermicomposts could be prepared from the kitchen waste, farm waste, market waste, even from biodegradable city waste.

The most effective uses of earthworms are organic waste management and supplement of readily available plant nutrients and vermicompost demands the credit as it maintains as well as improves soil health.
The chemical fertilizers are produced from “vanishing resources” of earth. Farmers urgently need a sustainable alternative, which is both economical and productive while also maintaining soil health & fertility.

The new concept is “Ecological Agriculture”, which is by definition different from “Organic Farming” that was focused mainly on production of chemical free foods.

Ecological agriculture emphasizes on total protection of food, farm & human ecosystems while improving soil fertility & development of secondary source of income for the farmers. UN has also endorsed it. Vermiculture provides the best answer for ecological agriculture, which is synonymous with “sustainable agriculture”.

Thereby it may be concluded that during the present time the most beneficiary from the scheme is our environment. This article opens the scope for further several researches.

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