The practice of vermiculture is at least a century old but it is now being revived worldwide with diverse ecological objectives such as waste management, soil detoxification and regeneration and sustainable agriculture. Earthworms act in the soil as aerators, grinders, crushers, chemical degraders and biological stimulators. They secrete enzymes, proteases, lipases, amylases, cellulases and chitinases which bring about rapid biochemical conversion of the cellulosic and the proteinaceous materials in the variety of organic wastes which originate from homes, gardens, dairies and farms. The process is odour free because earthworms release coelomic fluids in the decaying waste biomass which has anti-bacterial properties which kills pathogens. The species used in India were Indian blue (Perionyx excavatus), African night crawler (Eudrilus euginae) and the Tiger worm (Elsinia foetida). E. foetida was used in Australia. E. euginae was found to have higher feeding, growth and biodegradation capacity compared to other two species.
Earthworm action was shown to enhance natural biodegradation and decomposition of wastes (60–80 percent under optimum conditions), thus significantly reducing the composting time by several weeks. Within 5 to 6 weeks, 95–100 percent degradation of all cellulosic materials was achieved. Even hard fruit and egg shells and bones can be degraded, although these may take longer.
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Sinha, R.K., Herat, S., Agarwal, S. et al. Vermiculture and waste management: study of action of earthworms Elsinia foetida, Eudrilus euginae and Perionyx excavatus on biodegradation of some community wastes in India and Australia. The Environmentalist 22, 261–268 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1016583929723
- organic wastes
- secondary decomposers