OK…I admit the headline is a bit overblown…but I have been encouraged by recent increased activity around using worms to recycle bio-materials, mainly food waste.
I have personally followed the vermiculture movement for decades, since these hard working organisms both help create healthier soils and are indicative of them. My static compost bins have long since turned into worm bins, and more than handle all our food waste. I have even been testing commercial worm castings in a container plant production system as part of an organic mix.
Equally important is the idea that vermiculture might be an answer to one of our concerns…getting rid of food waste. Most of it now travels to a landfill site to be buried with all the other “garbage.” But, is it really “garbage” or “waste?” Current vermiculture systems can take the mountains of food waste and turn them into worm castings (poop), a rich and biologically active soil amendment.
While many authors have praised worm castings as improving soil health, there has been limited research into how they affect plant growth. But, a recent study at North Carolina showed that adding “vermicompost” to the container mix for Hibiscus plants showed dramatically improved growth with a 20% compost mixture. For more information, contact Michelle McGinnis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have seen similar results in my testing.
If you don’t believe there is a food waste issue, read the book “Waste” by Tristram Stuart. This covers the food waste issue world wide, with many depressing statistics on how much food gets thrown out. In fact, studies show that “around half of all food in the US is wasted!” And, this is a trend that has tended to increase over the past few decades. So, the raw material is there…we just need systems to collect, process and distribute this potential soil builder. It would solve several problems at once.
In fact, here in Portland, there is a neighborhood activist, Randy White, who is trying to organize neighborhoods into worm composting centers. (He can be contacted through his website “Bright Neighborhood” at www.brightneighbor.com.) Those in the specific area would invest $250 and contribute all their food waste to their local worm farm. The wastes would turn into soil food and given to those that supplied the raw materials…recycling within the neighborhood
If you don’t know much about this, a good place to start is with the website www.vermiculturemanual.com/en/index.html. It lists links to courses, and contains lots of basic information. Or, you can get much of what you need free with the “Manual of On-Farm Vermicomposting and Vermiculture” by Glenn Munroe (Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada). This PDF publication is available online at www.agbio.ca/DOCs/Vermiculture_FarmersManual_gm.pdf.
Other books include “In Their Own Words: Interviews With Vermiculture Experts” edited by Peter Bogdanov; and “Beyond Compost: Converting Organic Waste Beyond Compost Using Worms” by Tom Wilkinson. They are available through online sites…just type in “books on vermiculture” to find them.
This site will follow this activity, both locally here in Portland, and internationally. It is just one of what I like to call a “middle-of-the-road-radical” solution to a problem. One where it seems everyone, including the public in general, gains something positive.