Soil Biology. Despite thinking about it as just “Dirt”, soil is a living system that relies on a wide range of microorganisms to promote plant growth. Worm castings were described as “teeming with microbes” upon excretion that further the decomposition process. It was also presented that urban environments often have very limited or contaminated soil resources (see photos above), describe multiple benefits from using vermicompost as it relates to overall soil and plant health.
A Global Perspective. How could we better utilize Vermciomposting at the global level? What type of considerations would need to be made to promote widespread adoption of vermicomposting? How would cultural differences and a variety of environmental conditions affect vermicomposting in other countries?
If you are extremely interested in this topic there is a book available to dig even deeper titled Earthworm Management in Tropical Agroecosystems it is edited by: Lavelle, Brussard, and Hendrix. It was published in 1999 and is ISBN: 0-85199-270-6 another good book with general information is titled Worms Eat My Garbage? by: Mary Applehof and although it was printed in 1982 it is still a good reference that can be purchased on a limited budget.
Agriculture Extension. Every State in the US has an extension office associated with their land grant university. A fun project for students is to have them contact their local or regional Agricultural Extension Agent (Typically one in each county or region within the state) to discuss vermicomposting. They might even find that there are farms or facilities in their county or region that have vermicomposting as part of their operations. The extension service can also provide you with additional resources and let you know about what agriculture related events and workshops are occurring in your area. Several agriculture extension agencies also produce “extension bulletins” which are means of disseminating research into application in the community. North Carolina State has a great on-line resource for Vermicomposting offered through their extension service,
An article relating to the large-scale vermicomposting operation from BioCycle can be accessed here.
Bioremediation and Plant Pathology. Worm castings provide a nutrient dense growing media that has a multitude of benefits for plant growth. Worms can also be used as a filter for several environmental contaminants and as a natural means of suppressing disease. Utilize the following articles and feel free to have students search for additional resources to assist in furthering their understanding of bioremediation and plant pathology.
Journal Articles like Heavy Metals Remediation From Urban Wastes Using Three Species of Earthworm by: Pattnaik and Reddy can be a great starting point for research. Read the full text.
Here's a video describing the assistance vermicompost provides for suppressing diseases.
Worm Bins and Vermiculture. Vermiculture is the production of worms for use in the garden, vermicomposting, and even as bait!!!
In order to start a worm bin at your home you can order red wigglers from a wide range of sources.
As part of an ongoing project and to better understand the world of worms, creating an in-class or at-home worm bin is one of the best ways to get in touch with your wormy side.
There are several source of pre-fabricated systems which utilize a wide range of materials and designs.
A plethora of lesson plans and experiments can be generated by having worms in the classroom:
- They can be dissected to better understand their biology
- They could use a variety of worm species and determine what works best
- Thermometers can be placed in the bins to determine optimal temperatures for decomposition
- Different source materials for worm food or bedding materials can be evaluated
- Students can design and build different systems to evaluate
- The possibilities are endless!!!
How can you take action steps to circumvent the waste stream and create a valuable resource?