Worm composting science facts are helpful to understand how important vermicomposting is to the health of the soil. This is a continuation of a summary of worm composting facts from a survey in Australia. Please see my blog post Worm Compost Science Education Facts for the the introduction and more science facts on worm composting. There is a lot of information here so I divided it into two blog posts. In this picture you can see worms working on creating worm compost from a cantaloupe rind.
More Worm Composting Science Facts:
In all growth trials the best growth responses were exhibited when the vermicompost made up a relatively small proportion (10-20%) of the total volume of the container medium. (p. 17)
Surprisingly greater proportions of vermicast in the plant growth medium have not always improved plant growth. (p. 17)
There is a substantial body of evidence to demonstrate that microbes, including bacteria, fungi, etc. also produce ‘plant growth regulators’ such as: auxins, gibberellins, cytokinins, ethylene, and ascorbic acids. (p. 18)
Since microbe population is significantly boosted by earthworms, large quantities of ‘plant growth regulators” are available in vermicompost. (p. 18)
Vermicompost is rich in humic acid which promotes plant growth and nutritional uptake. (p. 19)
Several studies have shown that earthworms effectively bioaccumulate or biodegrade several organic and inorganic chemicals. (p. 19)
Vermicompost use in crops inhibits soil-born fungal diseases. (p. 19)
The ability of pathogen suppression disappeared when the vermicompost was sterilized, indicating that the biological mechanism of disease suppression involved was microbial antagonism. (p. 19)
Buckerfield found that the stimulatory effect of vermicompost on plant growth was apparently destroyed when it was sterilized. (p. 22)
The page number at the end of each fact gives the reference to the research in the original survey! As you can see there has been a lot of favorable research on worm composting.
Purchase My PowerPoint Video, an Introduction to Worm Composting!
I created a PowerPoint video which I saved as a movie, as an Introduction to Worm Composting. This is a very good introduction with my own photos and video clips on my experiences with worm composting. I tell you what common mistakes I have made to save you from making these mistakes yourself! There are two choices:
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Have you been looking through your worm bin and found composting worms stuck together? Did you wonder what was going on? This is how red wiggler worms mate. Now that your curiosity is satisfied about this strange phenomenon you’ll want to understand more about what is going on.
Composting Worms Stuck Together and the Clitellum
The clitellum is the enlarged band around the worm’s body that is close to the head of the worm; maybe 1/3 to 1/4 of the way back from the head. Sexually immature worms do not have clitellum. This is they way to tell if a worm is ready to mate. Composting worms are hermaphrodites. This means that each worm has male and female parts. But they cannot mate with only themselves. They need another worm to line up with, in order to exchange sperm. Worms attach to each other first with their setae which are defined as:
Each segment or section of the worm has muscles and bristles called setae. The bristles or setae help anchor and control the worm when moving through soil. This information came from the website of the University of Pennsylvania which has lots of good explanatory pictures.
The worms align themselves in opposite directions. A good drawing and explanation can be seen at this composting website. After attaching and holding onto each other with their setae (bristles) they create a slime tube which enables the transfer of sperm from worm to worm. The slime tube also becomes the cocoon. Please check out these links because pictures are worth thousands of words! Below you will see a YouTube movie that I put together which also demonstrates what happens when worms mate.
Mating Process Can Take Up to 3 Hours
Even though each worm has male and female parts, the seminal fluid must be exchanged between worms for fertilization to take place. There are grooves on the underside of the worm that enable the exchange of sperm. The exchange of sperm doesn’t necessarily happen at the same time. The process can take place for up to 3 hours. This is a very good website to explain this process: the city of Euless, Texas. Charles Darwin has some things to say about worms at this link, an excerpt from a book called The Earth Moved. Read pages 69 and 70. He is talking about nightcrawlers so it is not clear to me if this applies to red wigglers. It is very interesting anyway.
Composting Worms Mating Video
I found some composting worms stuck together in one of my worm bins, so I decided to take a video of them. I don’t know if they are still mating in the video or if they are trying to separate. They want to escape from the light. As they are trying to separate or mate, whatever they are up to, the worm at the back seems to have its head in the slime tube. The video gives an excellent view of 2 composting worms mating.
I’ve seen a lot on the internet about Bokashi and red composting worms. Several sites recommend adding Bokashi fermented food scraps directly to the composting worm bin. That would be much easier than digging holes to bury the Bokashi fermented food scraps. Usually Bokashi buckets are 5 gallons each. When it is full that is an awful lot of Bokashi compost to add to a worm bin. Unless you have huge commercial sized worm bins. So the first problem is the amount of Bokashi when it is ready is too much for a home-sized worm bin.
Bokashi and Red Composting Worms-Is it OK?
Another problem of putting Bokashi fermented kitchen scraps into a worm bin is that it is very acidic. Red compost worms also known as red wigglers can tolerate a wide range of ph in the bin. But they can not handle too much acidity. When the Bokashi food scraps are first finished they are too acidic for a worm bin.
Posted below is a YouTube video of some Bokashi and red compost worms. You can see the worms reactions to the acidity of the Bokashi kitchen scraps. It is very clear that they are in distress as they writhe around trying to get away from the acidity. In the picture to the left the two worms that are curled up are actually writhing in distress to the Bokashi. The Bokashi is the brown powder that you see in the picture. The vegetable scraps in the picture are fermented by the Bokashi microorganisms. I wanted you to know that after I saw the worms’ reactions I removed them from the Bokashi fermented kitchen scraps.
Let Bokashi Compost Sit for a While
it is important to know that Bokashi fermented kitchen scraps need to sit for a while exposed to the air before being added to a worm bin. Or just add small amounts at a time. This way the worms can steer clear of it until the acidity has worn off. Bokashi fermented kitchen scraps should not be buried near roots of plants that you care about. The acidity could harm the roots before it becomes neutral. The acidity dissipates quickly when it is buried in the ground.
Just a Few Tips on Bokashi and Red Wigglers
So these are just a few tips to keep your worms healthy and in the proper environment. The thing about the Bokashi kitchen scraps is that they are great after they lose their acidity. The worms really love eating it after it has a more neutral ph!