Economic importance of earthworm and vermiculture
Earthworms are known as friends of farmers because of their use and importance in agriculture. In this post about the economic importance of earthworm, you will find exactly what makes them so great.
Earthworms are species of worms that live in the soil. They are hermaphrodite i.e. an earthworm has both male and female reproductive organs. They feed on live and dead organic matter. Their population in the soil depends on the pH, temperature, aeration, texture, and moisture of the soil. They thrive well in neutral to slightly acidic soils. Earthworms have big economic importance in agriculture. We will talk about it in detail below.
What is the economic importance of earthworm to farmers?
Delving into this topic, we have to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of earthworms.
Advantages of earthworms to farmers
- They improve the soil structure
Earthworm produces feces in form of cast which cement soil particles together. This improves the soil structure and helps to hold water and nutrients without dispersing them. Earthworms help to maintain a good soil structure. Researches have also shown that earthworm’s cast can be used to rebuild the topsoil.
- They help to improve the fertility and nutrient content and availability in the soil
Earthworms improve soil fertility and soil nutrient content and availability in many ways. First, they play a vital role in converting plant debris and organic matter in the soil into rich humus. They feed on manure, plant debris, and the soil, and concentrate the mineral and organic contents of their food in casts. The casts created by earthworms are richer in nutrients than the surrounding soil and they are readily available for plants.. The casts are rich in nitrogen which is beneficial to plants.
Another way worms improve soil fertility and nutrient content is through their death. When earthworms die, they decompose very fast which further contribute to the organic contents of the soil. Earthworms create tunnels in the soil and leave their cast in them. Thanks to these tunnels, plant roots are able to penetrate deeper into the soil. And the cast in the tunnels and in the soil provide a more favourable environment for plant roots to grow. These channels are also known as burrows.
READ ALSO: Economic importance of fungi in commercial agriculture
- Earthworms improve soil drainage
This is as a result of the extensive networks of burrows and channels they create in the soil. They aerate and loosen up the soil and improve its drainage. Soil containing a good amount of earthworms is able to drain up water ten times faster than soil which does not contain earthworms.
- Earthworms are also used a bait by fishermen
Fishes feed on worms and so fishermen use earthworms as bait during fishing.
- Earthworms are also used in the making of compost manure known as vermicompost
What is vermiculture?
Vermiculture is the cultivating of earthworms mainly for the purpose of using them to make vermicompost from organic waste. Vermicompost is nutrient-rich compost gotten from the breakdown of organic waste by earthworms. Vermicompost is rich in water-soluble nutrients which are used as organic fertilizers and for soil conditioning.
Vermiculture is used for three main purposes:
- Waste management
In some developed countries, vermiculture has been adopted in waste management and recycling. Unlike other methods of waste recycling and compost making, vermiculture reduces the emission of greenhouse gases. It is also not expensive to manage and uses simple technology.
- Production of worm biomass
Vermicomposting is also used in the production of plant biomass which safer than other forms of biomass conversion.
- Production of castings
Earthworm cast has been explained above under the benefits of earthworms. Vermiculture is used to produce earthworm casts.
Disadvantages of earthworms
Earthworms are not all good and they have their disadvantages too. Worms have the ability to destroy young and tender plants. Also, when they are present in large numbers, they destroy grasslands by making too many burrows in the soil. They increase the chances of soil erosion in sloppy areas.
Despite some disadvantages, earthworms are very beneficial in agriculture for improving soil fertility and agricultural output. That is why the practice of harvesting and selling them for the making of vermicompost is now becoming popular all over the world.
READ ALSO: Economic importance of algae