Vermiculture

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Vermiculture: Promote Global Worming!: 

Vermiculture: Promote Global Worming! Written and designed By Julie Weisenhorn, Teaching Specialist, Department of Horticultural Science, University of Minnesota. December 2000

Darwin  Earthworms : 

Darwin  Earthworms “The plow is one of the most ancient and most valuable of Man’s inventions; but long before he existed, the land … was regularly ploughed, and still continues to be ploughed, by earthworms. It may be (doubtful) whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world as these lowly, organized creatures. - Charles Darwin, 1881

Presentation Goals: 

Presentation Goals To understand the importance of the earthworm; To understand the basic biology of the earthworm; To become enthused about the prospects of home vermicomposting.

Think about this: : 

Think about this: How can I change from “waste-ful” to being “waste-free”?

Earthworm Taxonomic Details: 

Earthworm Taxonomic Details Phylum Annelida (Latin for “rings”) Class Chaetopoda Order Oligochaeta Five families Most common to N. America = Lumbricidae 3000 species worldwide

Common Species : 

Common Species Lumbricus terrestis – Night crawler Allolobophora caliginosa – Grey worm Allolobophora chlorotica – Green worm Lumbricus rubellus – Red worm Eisenia fetida – Red Wiggler

The Earthworm & History: 

The Earthworm & History Casts found in Nile River basin = FERTILITY No earthworms native to Minnesota Exotics destroying understory vegetation Darwin, Oliver and Barrett Sir Albert Howard The Rodales Doc Hopp

Lifespan of the Earthworm: 

Lifespan of the Earthworm Lifespan Conservative estimate: 4-8 years Barrett estimates 15+ Mortality by accident Primitive physiology is unchanged Body composition: 70-95% water Balance = protein, fat, minerals absorbed from soil

Earthworm Biology 1001: 

Earthworm Biology 1001 Segmented body “somites” Somites equipped with setae Five “hearts” Cold-blooded Peristonium = mouth Prostonium for prying

Earthworm Biology 1001: 

Earthworm Biology 1001 Mucus is critical: Holds in moisture Aids in respiration Protects body while burrowing Sperm carrier during reproduction

Reproductive System: 

Reproductive System Hermaphrodites, but not self-fertilizing Mutual exchange of sperm Ova are fertilized in cocoons Clitellum: light-colored band - produces cocoons Cocoons contain ~ 4 eggs Eggs incubate 3 weeks

Regeneration: 

Regeneration Myth: Cut a worm in half and you’ll have two worms Worm needs at least 13 segments Will re-grow body segments (equal number)

Nervous System: 

Nervous System Brain = a knot of nerves Ganglion serve as impulse centers Super sensitive to touch Allows worm to select food, avoid predators and objects, and reproduce; Can feel bird’s footsteps Eyes are sensitive to blue light and skin to ultravoilet rays = burrowing action

Digestive System: 

Digestive System Eats weight in soil & OM daily Processed in alimentary canal Muscular mixing with enzymes releasing amino acids, sugars, organic molecules; Includes microorganisms Molecules absorbed through intestinal membranes Result: CASTINGS

The Internal Earthworm: 

The Internal Earthworm

Vermiculture & Vermicomposting: 

Vermiculture & Vermicomposting Vermiculture is … “the culture of earthworms” Vermicomposting is … “using earthworms and microorganisms to convert organic waste into black, earthy-smelling, nutrient-rich humus.” - Mary Appelhof

Why?: 

Why? Year-round compost & organic plant fertilizer Reduce, reuse, recycle Non-polluting Profitable commercial business Interesting for all ages

Comparison of Composting: 

Comparison of Composting Organic Matter Temperature Compost bin = 130-160° F; 6-8 months Worm bin = 59-70° F; year-round Air circulation Compost bin = vents + turning Worm bin = vents + worm churn

Comparison of Composting: 

Comparison of Composting Moisture Compost bin = rain, hose, organic matter Worm bin = foodstock Microorganisms Compost bin = bacteria + fungi + some worms Worm bin = worm mass + bacteria + fungi, etc.

Comparison of Composting: 

Comparison of Composting Time Compost bin = few months; depends on weather Worm bin = few months

How can I vermicompost?: 

How can I vermicompost? Three E’s: Education Equipment Environment

1st E: Education: 

1st E: Education Books Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof The Earthworm Book: How to Raise and Use Earthworms for Your Farm and Garden, by Jerry Minnich Extension office bulletins “Earthworm Biology and Production” by the University of California Cooperative Extension, leaflet #2828

1st E: Education: 

1st E: Education Resources on the Internet: The Compost Resource Page http://www.oldgrowth.org/compost Worm Digest http://www.wormdigest.org Cityfarmer http://www.cityfarmer.org Worm Woman (Mary Appelhof’s site) http://www.wormwoman.com

2nd E: Equipment: 

2nd E: Equipment Suppliers: The Happy D Worm Ranch http://www.happydranch.com Biological Home Grown Farm http://www.worm-publications.com/biologicalhome.htm The Worm Farm http://www.empnet.com/worms/welcome.htm

Worm Bins: 

Worm Bins Size Construction Plastic vs. Wood construction Commercial Can-O-Worms™ Worm-A-Way® Worm-A-Roo™

Worm Bins: 

Worm Bins Size Track food waste for a week Allow one square foot of surface per pound of waste Example problem: Five pounds of food waste per week will require 5 ft² of surface. Bin should measure 1’ x 2’ x 3’ (6 ft²)

Bin Construction: 

Bin Construction Wooden Bin Organic Breathes Heavy Deteriorates faster Can be built as furniture No treated lumber or fragrant woods (ie: cedar) Plastic Bin Lightweight Holds moisture Will not rot Requires more holes for aeration Inexpensive Many bins available

Commercial Bins: 

Commercial Bins Can-O-Worms™ Most popular Enclosed tier system Bottom catch tray & spigot Stackable mesh trays Worms migrate vertically Easy to harvest castings $130.00 incl. shipping

Commercial Bins: 

Commercial Bins Worm-A-Way® Plastic Ventilated Several sizes Lightweight $90-$100 incl. Worms & shipping

Commercial Bins: 

Commercial Bins Worm-A-Roo™ Double bin system Plastic “Migration device” Lightweight $140-$170 incl. Supplies, worms, and shipping

3rd E: Environment: 

3rd E: Environment A worm bin must be: Convenient Easily accessible In a well-ventilated location Covered and protected from wind, sun, and animals

Bedding: 

Bedding Various materials: Shredded newspaper Sphagnum Peat Moss Manure Leaf litter Coir (Coconut fiber) Wood chips Dampen bedding with tap water Mix well

Bedding: 

Bedding Possible additions to bedding Calcium carbonate to control pH Do NOT use slaked or hydrated lime Rock dust for grit Zeolite – for grit; also balances pH, controls odors, absorbs ammonia

Bin Temperature: 

Bin Temperature Recommended: 59-77° F A cooler bin … Stays moist Worms appear more active Bedding is thicker May have more mites Easier to maintain consistent conditions A warmer bin Dries out quickly Worms appear more lethargic Bedding appears to be settled Harder to maintain non-ambient temperature Additional moisture required

Bin Care & Maintenance: 

Bin Care & Maintenance Provide adequate bin and bedding mixture Maintain moisture level Maintain temperature 60-65° F Provide air circulation in bin via adequate holes Provides aeration Controls odors by eliminating anaerobic conditions

Foodstock: 

Foodstock Variety Bury foodstock under bedding Don’t overload system Maintain aerobic conditions C/N ratio

Foodstock: 

Foodstock DO’s Fruit & vegetable scraps Banana peels Grains & cereals, pasta Tea bags & leaves Cooked eggs & shells Coffee grounds & filters Onions & potatoes Pancakes Banana bread, cake Leaves Plant cuttings DON’Ts Non-Biodegradables Plastic Glass Rubber Pet feces (cats) Toxic materials Ex: orange peels Plant cuttings treated with herbicides or insecticides

Foodstock: 

Foodstock Meat & Dairy products Worms will consume Not a good idea for indoor system (odiferous) May attract undesirables Can grind up bones (high nitrogen) High N!

Other Organisms: 

Other Organisms Mites & flies Predatory planarians Centipedes & millipedes Enchytraeids (white worms) Springtails Isopods (ie: sowbugs) Bacteria, mold, fungi, etc.

Harvesting Vermicompost: 

Harvesting Vermicompost Worm castings vs. Vermicompost Worm castings are deposits that have moved through the worm’s digestive system; Vermicompost is a combination of : Worm castings OM and bedding at various stages of decomposition Organisms such as worms and cocoons Microorganisms

Harvesting Vermicompost: 

Harvesting Vermicompost Vermicompost supplies: Nutrient-rich organic fertilizer Humus is beneficial to plant growth Humic acid Binding site for plant nutrients Increases soil texture and aggregation Improves permeability

Harvest Methods: 

Harvest Methods Dump & Hand Sort Method Lateral Method Vertical Method

There is no such thing as waste, for one organism’s waste is another’s resource. How can YOU be more waste-free?: 

There is no such thing as waste, for one organism’s waste is another’s resource. How can YOU be more waste-free?

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