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The grinding effect of its gizzard and the effect of its gut muscle movement result in the formation of casts.
Earthworm casts are a ready-to-use fertilizer that can be used at a higher rate of application than compost, since nutrients are released at rates that growing plants prefer.
Vermicasting can be done on a small scale by homeowners with household organic wastes, on a large-scale by farmers with manure or by the food industry using organic wastes such as fruit and vegetable cull materials.
Earthworms are repelled by salinity levels above 5 mg/g.
Therefore, if the starting material is low in salt, the resulting vermicast will be as well.
Most pathogens are consumed in the earthworm gut, since earthworms feed on fungi, and pathogenic bacteria cannot survive in the low-oxygen environment inside the earthworm gut.
Feed Preferences The ideal feed for earthworms is food or animal waste and fresh, green, plant waste, rich in nitrogen or precomposted (for up to 2 weeks to make it easier to digest).
(Photo courtesy of Melissa Walters) Nutrients Vermicast nutrient content varies with earthworm feed type, but feeding waste to earthworms does cause nitrogen mineralization, followed by phosphorous and sulphur mineralization after egestion.
A typical nutrient analysis of casts is C: N ratio 1215:1; 1.5%2.5% N, 1.25%2.25% PO at 75%80% moisture content.
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Vermicasting, also called vermicomposting, is the processing of organic wastes through earthworms (Figure 1).
It is a natural, odourless, aerobic process, much different from traditional composting.