Worm castings, soil gold

Earth worms in potting soil
A peek under the mulch in a 50L container of living organic soil shows a thriving population of earth worms. These were not added intentionally but rather appeared after the addition of worm castings via a topdressing.

Vermicompost is the key to successful organic crop production

Earth worms have been studied by philosophers, pharaohs and scientists for thousands of years. Cleopatra VII, the last Egyptian Pharaoh sentenced to death anyone attempting to smuggle worms out of Egypt. Aristotle called worms “intestines of the earth”. The productive role of earth worms in the cultivation of crops have only been properly researched in recent decades. Vermicomposting helps solve waste problems by digesting raw organic food scraps, manures and other organic materials through biological decomposition and excreting a perfect fertiliser called worm castings or vermicast. It is a fertiliser rich in NPK, micronutrients, plant growth regulators and an incredible diversity of highly beneficial soil microbes. Effectively, compost worms transforms organic waste into soil gold.

 

Worm castings are the richest source of humus

Vermicompost contain a high level of humus, rich in humic acid. This improves air porosity and water holding capacity which dramatically increases health and vigour of young seedlings and mature plants. Humic acid contained in worm castings have many cation exchange sites that hold plant available nutrients such as calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and sulfur. It holds onto these plant available nutrients in solution and releases them to plants when they need them. The humic acid in worm castings dissolves organic minerals, stimulates root growth and reduces plant stress while enhancing nutrient uptake.

The high humus content in worm castings provides disease and pathogen prevention from unwanted organisms such as root rot. Worm castings contain beneficial microorganisms and are many times higher than populations found in most soils and thermophilic composts. Earthworms stimulate these soil microbes such as nitrogen fixing and phosphate solubilising bacteria as well as actinomycetes and mycorrhizal fungi. Worm castings are the most important input in your soil due to the high content of humus and slow release, plant available nutrients.

 

Natural plant growth promoting hormones

Worm castings promote incredible growth and plant health beyond what simple nutrient uptake could ever achieve. This comes from the many forms of natural growth hormones contained in the vermicast. Studies have shown worm castings to contain cytokinins, auxins and flowering hormones, gibberellins. Plants grown in soil that contains worm castings show faster flower development than without worm castings.

 

Pest and disease prevention

Vermicompost has the ability to ward off and prevent pest attacks from hard bodied insects such as spider mites and aphids. This is due to the chitinase enzyme produced by the worms which destroys the insect bodies made of chitin. The addition of chitin inputs in your soil like malted barley or crustacean shells will further stimulate chitinase enzyme-producing microbes. The diverse polulations of microbes have the ability to out-compete pathogenic organisms, drastically reducing fungal disease and root knot nematodes.

 

Vermicompost in your soil mixes

Studies show undoubted benefits from the addition of worm castings to your potting mixes and garden beds. Vermicompost can be used by topdressing soil and watered in or blending into a potting mix at 20% of total volume for maxium benefit. Worm castings are the key to successful organic crops and eliminates the need for harmful chemical fertilisers.

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