You may have already heard of composting, using decomposing plant material as fertilizer, but what about vermicomposting? Vermicomposting is like taking composting to another level by adding worms to the mix. The worms eat the decomposed fruits and vegetables that have been added to the compost bin and their excrement, also known as "vermicast" or "humus", becomes a nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner.
A research group from Cornell University has been studying the benefits of vermiculture and they've found that not only does it aid plant growth without the use of synthetic fertilizers, vermicompost can reduce plant loss and fight plant disease and infection.
"Our project team found limited benefits associated with direct soil applications of vermicompost. However, we did find that vermicompost can be an important component of potting media for producing vegetable transplants without synthetic fertilizers. Temperature is a significant factor in the performance of potting media containing vermicompost and we investigated optimal temperature ranges for a variety of vegetable crops. We found that vermicompost from a specific facility protects cucumbers from Pythium aphanidermatum, a seed-infecting pathogen. Through an ongoing project, were investigating the microbial mechanisms that prevent infection from occurring to increase our understanding of the biological control of plant diseases."
Watch the video on vermicomposting, below, by Allison Jack, a plant pathology and plant-microbe biology researcher at Cornell and read more on vermicomposting at home here.