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Why Not Vermicompost?

First and foremost vermicompost relies on the introduction of earthworms from


an outside source. This not only requires reliance on an external input or market but also
may introduce a foreign element into the delicate local ecosystem.
Earthworms are an inhabitant and indicator of nutrient-rich soils; when such soil
is created worms will appear independently of human involvement. Local earthworms
are fundamentally soil-eaters; they can descend up to eight feet and play an essential role
in bringing biomass into the soil and minerals to the surface; their burrows provide
aeration and balanced water content as well as providing pathways and enzymes for
white feeder roots. However, worms introduced through vermicompost are biomass-
eaters; they will not serve the greater and necessary role of deep-burrowing worms.
Instead they will essentially play the same role as the microbes in decomposing and
rendering minerals available to plants but will consume more energy to produce the same
result.
Vermicompost is produced away from the plants in a covered area: temperature
and external factors are controlled. However, when this compost is transferred to the
field microbes present will not necessarily adapt to the transition. During decomposition
enzymes are released from both earthworms and microbes essential to the development of
feeder roots. If composting is done away from the field the benefits of these enzymes
will be lost to plants. Human labor is also wasted moving ingredients and compost to and
from the pits.
Worms will greatly increase the presence of N, P, and K in the soil; however,
many more elements are necessary for plant growth. In addition, vermicompost is
generally practiced with fallen leaves; these leaves contain only 30% of the necessary
elements having transferred the bulk back to the mother plant upon drying. Therefore a
traditional vermicompost heap utilizing only worms and dry biomass will be deficient in
elements necessary for growing plants. Once soil and biomass is converted into humus by
microbes in the field, the presence of earthworms will be welcome and cherished for their
great contribution to the enrichment of the soil.

Drafted by Henry Moershel