Vol.1, No.2, 76-94 (2010)
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. Openly accessi ble at http://www.scirp.org/journal/AS/
Agricultural Sciences
The wonders of earthworms & its vermicompost in farm
production: Charles Darwin’s ‘friends of farmers’, with
potential to replace destructive chemical fertilizers
from agriculture
Rajiv K. Sinha1, Sunita Agarwal2, Krunal Chauhan3, Dalsukh Valani3
1Visiting Senior Lecturer, School of Engineering (Environment), Griffith University, Nathan Campus, Brisbane, Australia;
Corresponding Aut hor: Rajiv.Sinha@griffith.edu.au
2Home Science, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, India
3Research Assistant Worked on Vermiculture Projects, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia
Received 15 April 2010; revised 2 June 2010; accepted 30 June 2010.
Earthworms and its excreta (vermicast) prom-
ises to usher in the ‘Second Green Revolution’
by completely replacing the destructive agro-
chemicals which did more harm than good to
both the farmers and their farmland. Earth-
worms restore & improve soil fertility and sig-
nificantly boost crop productivity. Earthworms
excreta (vermicast) is a nutritive ‘organic fertil-
izer’ rich in humus, NKP, micronutrients, bene-
ficial soil microbes‘nitrogen-fixing & phos-
phate solubilizing bacteria’ & ‘actinomycet s’ and
growth hormones ‘auxins’, ‘gibberlins’ & ‘cyto-
kinins’. Both earthworms and its vermicast &
body liquid (vermiwash) are scientifically prov-
ing as both ‘growth promoters & protectors’ for
crop plants. In our experiments with corn &
wheat crops, tomato and egg-plants it displayed
excellent growth performances in terms of
height of plants, color & texture of leaves, ap-
pearance of flowers & fruits, seed ears etc. as
compared to chemical fertilizers and the con-
ventional compost. There is also less inci-
dences of ‘pest & disease attack’ and ‘reduced
demand of water’ for irrigation in plants grown
on vermicompost. Presence of live earthworms
in soil also makes significant difference in flow er
and fruit formation in vegetable crops. Com-
posts w ork as a ‘slow-release fertilizer ’ w hereas
chemical fertilizers release their nutrients rather
quickly in soil and soon get depleted. Signifi-
cant amount of ‘chemical nitrogen’ is lost from
soil due to oxidation in sunlight. However, with
application of vermicompost the ‘organic nitro-
gen’ tends to be released much faster from the
excreted ‘humus’ by worms and those mineral-
ised by them and the net overall efficiency of
nitrogen (N) is considerably greater than that of
chemical fertilizers. Availability of phosphorus
(P) is sometimes much greater. Our study sh-
ows that earthworms and vermicompost can
promote growth from 50 to 100% over conven-
tional compost & 30 to 40% over chemical fer-
tilizers besides protecting the soil and the agro-
ecosystem while producing ‘nutritive and tasty
food’ at a much economical cost (at least 50-
75% less) as compared to the costly chemical
Keywords: A Slow Release Fertilizer;
Vermicompost – Miracle Growth Promoter; Rich in
Nutrients; H umus & Hormones; Vermicompost
Induce Biological Resistance in Plant; Suppress &
Repel Pest Attack
A revolution is unfolding in vermiculture studies for
vermicomposting of diverse organic wastes by waste
eater earthworms into a nutritive ‘organic fertilizer’ and
using them for production of ‘chemical-free safe food’,
both in quantity & quality without recourse to agro-
chemicals. Heavy use of agro-chemica ls since the ‘green-
revolution’ of the 1960’s boosted food productivity, but
at the cost of environment & society. It killed the benefi-
cial soil organisms & destroyed their natural fertility,
impaired the power of ‘biological resistance’ in crops
making them more susceptible to pests & diseases. Che-
R. K. Sinha et al. / Agricultura l Sciences 1 (2010) 76-94
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. Openly accessi ble at http://www.scirp.org/journal/AS/
mically grown foods have adversely affected human
health. The scientific community all over the world is
desperately looking for an ‘economically viable, socially
safe & environmentally sustainable’ alternative to the
Vermicomposts work as a ‘slow-release organic fertil-
izer’. With their continued application the ‘organic nitro-
gen’ & other nutrien ts in compost tends to be released at
constant rate from the accumulated ‘humus’ and the net
overall efficiency of NPK over a period of years is con-
siderably greater than 50% of that of chemical fertilizers.
Our study shows that it can promote growth from 50 to
100% over conventional compost & 30 to 40% over
chemical fertilizers besides protecting the soil and the
agro-ecosystem while producing ‘nutritive and tasty
food’ at a much economical cost (at least 50-75% less)
as compared to the costly chemical fertilizers. Study
found that maximum benefit from vermicompost is ob-
tained when it constitutes between 10 to 40% of the
growing medium [1].
The best part is that the use of earthworms and ver-
micompost in farm production provides dual-benefit to
crops. While promoting excellent growth it also protects
the crops from pests and diseases and thus significantly
reduce the use of chemical pesticides.
Several farms in world especially in North America,
Australia and Europe are going organic as the demand
for ‘organic foods’ are growing in society. In 1980, the
U.S. Board of Agriculture published a ‘Report and
Recommendations on Organic Farming’ based on case
studies of 69 organic farmers in U.S. and reported that
over 90,000 to 1,00,000 farmers in U.S. had already
switched over to organic farming [2]. This must have
gone in millions now. Earthworms will provide the an-
swer [3]. They have over 600 million years of experi-
ence in land management, soil improvement & farm
production. No wonder, Sir Charles Darwin called them
as the ‘unheralded soldiers of mankind and farmer’s
friend working day and night under the soil’ [4,5]. Im-
Figure 1. The sustainability cycle of vermiculture technology:
from food waste to food again.
portance of earthworms in growth of crop plants was
indicated by the ancient Indian scientist Surpala as early
as in the 10th Century A.D. in his epic ‘Vrikshayurveda’
(Science of Tree Growing) who suggested to add earth-
worms in pomegranate plants to get good quality of
fruits [6].
Earthworms restore & improve soil fertility and boost
crop productivity by th e use of their excr etory products -
‘vermicast’. They excrete beneficial soil microbes, and
secrete polysaccharides, proteins and other nitrogenous
compounds into the soil. They promote soil fragmenta-
tion and aeration, and bring about ‘soil turning’ and dis-
persion in farmlands. Worm activity can increase air-soil
volume from 8-30%. One acre of land can contain up to
3 million earthworms the activities of which can bring
up to 8-10 tons of ‘top soil’ to the surface (in the form of
vermicast) every year. Presence of worms regenerate
compacted soils and improves water penetration in such
soils by over 50%. [7-9]. U.S. study indicate that 10,000
worms in a farm plot provides the same benefit as three
farmers working 8 hours in shift all year round with 10
tons of manure applied in the plot [10].
Indian study showed that an earthworm population of
0.2-1.0 million per hectare of farmlands can be estab-
lished within a short period of three months. On an av-
erage 12 tons/hectare/year of soil or organic matter is
ingested by earthworms, leading to upturning of 18 tons
of soil/year, and the world over at this rate it may mean a
2 inches of fertile humus layer over the globe [11].
Studies at CSIRO, Australia found that introductions of
earthworms in disturbed lands can yield substantial
benefits to agricultural productivity and amelioration of
soil degrad ation.
Chemical fertilizers which ushered the ‘green revolution’
in the 1950-6 0’s cam e as a ‘m ixed ble ssin g’ for m anki nd.
It dramatically increased the ‘quantity’ of the food pro-
duced but decreased its ‘nutritional quality’ and also the
‘soil fertility’ over the years. The so il has become addict
and increasingly greater amount of chemical fertilizers
are needed every year to maintain the soil fertility and
food productivity at the same levels. There is evidence
that a plateau has been reached in global efforts to in-
R. K. Sinha et al. / Agricultura l Sciences 1 (2010) 76-94
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crease the yield per hectare through agro-chemicals. The
early response to chemical fertilizers is ‘levelling off’
after a 3% annual increase 1950-1984. Over the years it
has worked like a ‘slow poison’ for the soil with a serious
‘withdrawal symptoms’. The farmers today are caught in
a ‘vicious circle’ of higher use of agrochemicals to boost
food productivity at the cost of declining soil fertility. The
excessive use of ‘nitrogenous fertilizer’ (urea) has also
led to increase in the level of ‘inorganic nitrogen’ content
in groundwater (through leaching effects) and in the
human food with grave consequences for the human
Organic farming systems with the aid of various nu-
trients of biological origin such as compost (conven-
tional microbial compost or vermicompost made by
earthworms) are thought to be the answer for the ‘food
safety and security’ in future. Among them ‘composts’
made from biodegradation of organics of MSW (mu-
nicipal solid waste) which is being generated in huge
amount every day all over the world are most important.
The organic fraction of the MSW (about 70-80%) con-
taining plenty of nitrogen (N), potash (K) and phospho-
rus (P) is a good source of macro and micronutrients for
the soil. Also, there is always greater economic as well
as ecological wisdom in converting as much ‘waste into
Composts (con ventional or ve rmicompost) are aerobically
decomposed products of organic wastes such as the cattle
dung and animal droppings, farm and forest wastes and
the municipal solid wastes (MSW). Some believe it is a
‘miracle’ plant growth promoter [12]. They supply bal-
anced nutrients to plant roots and stimulate growth; in-
crease organic matt er content of t he soil and thus improve
their physical and chemical properties; add useful mi-
cro-organisms to the soil and provide food for the existing
soil micro-organisms and thus increase their biological
properties and capacity of fertility renewal. One ton of
conventional compost may contain 10 l bs of nitrogen (N),
5 lbs of phosphorus (P2O5) and 10 lbs of potash (K2O).
Compost made from poultry droppings contain highest
nutrient level among all compost [13].
There are other agronomic benefits of composts ap-
plication, such as high levels of soil-borne disease sup-
pression and removal of so il salinity. One study reported
that mean root disease was reduced from 82% to 18% in
tomato and from 98% to 26% in capsicum in soils
amended with compost [14]. Other reported that with
application of compost in vineyards, levels of exchange-
able sodium (Na) under vine were at least reduced to
50% [15]. Biological properties of soil were also im-
proved with up to ten-fold increase in total microbial
counts. Most significant was three-fold increase in the
population of earthworms under the vine with long-term
benefits to the soil.
Our studies at Griffith University, Australia has conclu-
sively proved that the indigenously prepared earthworms
vermicompost is ‘exceptionally superior’ over all brands
of conventionally prepared & marketed composts certi-
fied by Compost Australia. Studies confirm that vermi-
compost is at least 4 times more nutritive than conven-
tional cattle dung compost [16]. In Argentina, farmers
who use vermicompost consider it to be seven (7) times
richer than conventional composts in nutrients and
growth promoting values [17,18]. This is mainly due to
‘humus’ content in vermicompost excreted by earth-
worms which otherwise takes very long time to form
humus in conventional composting system through slow
decay of organic matter. The ‘humic acid’ in vermicom-
post stimulate plant growth even in small amount [19].
Vermicompost retains nutrients for long time than the
conventional compost & while the latter fails to deliver
the required amount of macro and micronutrients in-
cluding the vital NKP (nitrogen, potassium & phospho-
rus) to plants in shorter time, the vermicompost does.
Vermicompost also has very ‘high porosity’, ‘aeration’,
‘drainage’ and ‘water holding capacity’ than the conven-
tional compost and this again due to humus contents.
Earthworm participation enhances natural biodegrada-
tion and decomposition of organic materials from 60 to
80% by promoting the growth of ‘beneficial decomposer
aerobic bacteria’ in the waste biomass. The quality of
compost is significantly better, rich in key minerals &
beneficial soil microbes. It is also disinfected and free of
any pathogens as the worms release anti-pathogenic
coelomic fluid in the waste biomass [20]. In fact in the
conventional aerobic composting process which is ther-
mophilic (temperature rising up to 55) many benefi-
cial microbes are killed and nutrient especially nitrogen
is lost (due to gassing off of nitrogen). Some studies
found that while the conventional compost was higher in
‘ammonium’, the vermicompost tended to be higher in
‘nitrates’, which is the more bio-available form of nitro-
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gen for plants [21]. They also found that vermicompost
has higher N availability than the conventional compost
on a weight basis and the supply of several other plant
nutrients e.g. phosphorus (P), potassium (K), sulfur (S)
and magnesium (Mg), were significantly increased by
adding vermicompost as compared to conventional com-
post to soil. Study found the NPK value of vermicom-
post processed by worms from the same feedstock (cattle
dung) significantly increases by 3 to 4 times. It also en-
hances several m i cron ut ri ent s [2 2] .
Studies have found that if 100 kg of soil organics
(with say containing 2 kg of plant nutrients) are proc-
essed through the earthworms, there is a production of
about 300 kg of ‘fresh living soil’ with 6% of NPK and
several trace elements that are equally essential for
healthy plant growth. This magnification of plant nutri-
ents is possible because earthworms produce extra nu-
trients from grinding rock particles with organics and by
enhancing atmospheric nitrogen fixation. Earthworms
activate this ground mix in a short time of just one hour.
When 100 kg of the same organic wastes are composted
conventionally unaided by earthworm s, about 30 kg com -
post is derived with 3% NPK [11].
Although the conventional com posting process i s com-
pleted in about 8 weeks, but additional 4 weeks is re-
quired for ‘curing’. Curing involves the further aerobic
decomposition of some compounds, organic acids and
large particles that remain after composting. Less oxy-
gen and water is required during curing. Compost that
has had insufficient curing may damage crops. Vermi-
compost do not require any curing and can be used
straightway after production. It retains nutrients for long
time and while the conven tional compost fails to deliver
the required amount of macro and micronutrients in-
cluding the vital NKP (nitrogen, potassium & phospho-
rus) to plants in shorter time, the vermicompost does.
[12,23]. This was also verified by us [2 4] .
Upon successive application, all composts condition the
soil with rich population of ‘beneficial soil microbes’ &
and ‘essential nutrients’ thus reinforcing its natural fer-
tility, whereas, the chemical fertilizers destroy the bene-
ficial microbes and impair the natural fertility of soil
while also affecting soil pH and porosity. Composts work
as a ‘slow-release fertilizer’ whereas chemical fertilizers
release their nutrients rather qu ickly in soil and soon get
depleted. Nitrogen and phosphorus particularly are not all
available to plant roots from the conventional composts in
Ta b l e 1 . NPK value of vermicompost compared with conven-
tional cattle dung compost made from cattle dung.
Nutrients Cattle Dung
Compost Vermicompost
1.N 0.4-1.0% 2.5-3.0%
2.P 0.4-0.8% 1.8-2.9%
3.K 0.8-1.2% 1.4-2.0%
Source: Ag arwal [22]
Table 2. Comparison between nutritive values of the end
products of conventional composting and vermicomposting
systems (CNP in %; Others in mg/100 gm of compost).
Parameter Conventional
Composting Vermicomposing
Total Carbon (C) 9.34% 13.5%
Total Nitrogen (N)1.05% 1.33%
Phosphorus (P) 0.32% 0.47%
Iron (Fe) 587.87 746.2
Zinc (Zn) 12.7 16.19
Manganese (Mn) 35.25 53.86
Copper (Cu) 4.42 5.16
Magnesium (Mg) 689.32 832.48
Source: Jadia & Fulekar [25]
the first year because N & P in orga nic matter are resi stant
to decay. Nitrogen is about one half effective as com pared
to chemical fertilizer, but phosphorus & potassium are as
effective as chemical fertilizers. However, with continued
application of compost over the years the ‘organic ni-
trogen’ (N) from the accumulated ‘humus’ (through a
long decay process) tends to be released and the net
overall effi ciency of nit rogen (N) over a period of year s is
considerably greater than 50% of that of chemical fertil-
izers. Availability of phosphorus is sometimes much
greater [12,26]. But vermicompost releases nitrogen (N)
much faster and even after single application as ‘humus’
is directly excreted by worms and they also mineralise
nitrogen from the waste organics to make it bio -available
to plants. The net overall efficiency of nitrogen (N) is
considerably greater than that of chemical fertilizers [27].
All compost (including vermicompost), are produced
from some ‘waste materials’ of society which is con-
verted into a ‘valuable resource’. It is like ‘killing two
birds in one shot’. More significant is that it is of bio-
logical origin i.e. a ‘renewable resource’ and will be
readily available to mankind i n future. Whereas, chem ical
fertilizers are made from petroleum products which are
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‘non-renewable’ and a ‘depleting ’ resource. While in the
use of com post the environment is ‘benefited’ at all stages
- from production (salvaging waste & diverting them
from landfills and reducing greenhouse gases) to appli-
cation in farms (adding beneficial microbes to soil &
improvin g biochem ical properti es), in the u se of chem ical
fertilizers the environment is ‘harmed’ at all stages - from
procurement of raw materials from petroleum industries
to production in factories (generating huge amount of
chemical wastes and pollutants) and application in farms
(adversely affecting beneficial soil micro-organisms and
soil chemistry). And with chemical fertilizers, there is yet
another problem. A significant amount of ‘nitrogen’ (N)
is lost from the soil due to oxidation in sunlig ht. Studies
indicate that upon application of 100 kg urea (N) in farm
soil, 40-50 kg gets oxidised and escapes as ‘ammonia’
(NH3) into the air, about 20-25 kg leaches underground
polluting the groundwater, while only 20-25 kg is avail-
able to plants [16]
Properties of Farm Soil Using Compost Vis-a-vis
Chemical Fertilizers
Suhane [16], studied the chemical and biological
properties of soil under organic farming (using various
types of composts) and chemical farming (using chemi-
cal fertilizers - urea (N), phosphates (P) and potash (K)).
Results are given in Table 1.
The biggest advantage of great socio-economic signifi-
cance is that the food produced is completely organic,
‘safe & chemical-free’. Use of vermicompost enhances
Ta bl e 3. Farm soil properties under organic farming and che-
mical farming.
Chemical &
Propertie s o f S o il
Organic Farming
(Use of Composts)
Chemical Farming
(Use of Chemical
1) A vail ability of
Nitrogen (kg/ha) 256.0 185.0
2) A vail ability of
Phosphorus (kg/ha) 50.5 28.5
3) A vail ability of
Potash (kg/ha) 489.5 426.5
4) Azatobacter
(1000/gm of soil) 11.7 0.8
5) Phospho Bacteria
(100,000/kg of soil) 8.8 3.2
6) Carbonic Biomass
(mg/kg of soil) 273 217
Source: Suhane [16]
size, color, smell, taste, flavour an d keeping quality (sto -
rage value) of flowers, fruits, vegetables and food grains.
Studies indicate that vermicompost gives 30-40% higher
yield of crops over chemical fertilizers. Of greater agro-
nomic significance is that the minerals in the vermi-
compost are ‘readily & immediately bio-available’ to the
plants. Chemical fertilizers (and also manures) have to
be broken down in the soil before the plants can absorb.
Vermicompost also has greater ‘water holding capacity’
due to humus contents and hence reduces the require-
ment of water for irrigation by 30-40%. Use of chemical
fertilizers require high amount of water for irrigation.
Another big advantage of great economic & environ-
mental significance is that over successive years of ap-
plication, vermicompost ‘build-up the so ils natural fertil-
ity’ and also regenerates a rich population of earthworms
in the farm soil from the cocoons which further help
improve soil fertility and subsequently lesser amount of
vermicompost is required to maintain a good yield and
productivity. On the contrary, with the continued appli-
cation of chemical fertilizers over the years the ‘natural
fertility of soil is destroyed’ and it becomes ‘addict to
chemicals’. Subsequently greater amount of chemicals
are required to maintain the same yield & productiv ity of
previous years. More uses of agro-chemicals to boost
food productivit y are in fact a ‘self-defeat ing’ proposi tion.
Earthworms are regarded as ‘biological indicator’ of soil
fertility and a ‘soil conditioner’. They lead to total im-
provement in the physical (soil porosity & softness),
chemical (good pH and essential plant nutrients) and
biological (beneficial soil microbes & organisms) quality
of soil and land where they inhabit. They swallow large
amount of soil with organics (microbes, plant & animal
debris) everyday, grind them in their gizzard and digest
them in their intestine with aid of enzymes. Only 5-10
percent of the chemically digested and ingested material
is absorbed into the body and the rest is excreted out in
the form of fine mucus coated granular aggregates called
‘vermicastings’ which are rich in NKP (nitrates, phos-
phates and potash), micronutrients and beneficial soil
microbes [28].
Earthworms vermicast is a highly nutritive ‘organic fer-
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tilizer’ rich in humus, NKP (nitrogen 2-3%, potassium
1.85-2.25% and phosphorus 1.55-2.25%), micronutrients,
beneficial soil microbes like ‘nitrogen-fixing bacteria’
and ‘mycorrhizal fungi’ and are scientifically proving as
‘miracle growth promoters’. [29-31]. One study reports
as high as 7.37% nitrogen (N) and 19.58% phos-
phorus as P2O5 in worms vermicast [32]. Another study
showed that exchangeable potassium (K) was over 95%
higher in vermicompost [16]. There are also good
amount of calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg). Vermi-
compost has very ‘high porosity’, ‘aeration’, ‘drainage’
and ‘water holding capacity’. More important is that it
contains ‘plant-available nutrients’ and appears to in-
crease & retain more of them for longer period of time.
A matter of still greater agronomic significance is that
worms & vermicompost also increases ‘biological resis-
tance’ in plants (due to Actinomycetes) and protect them
against pest and diseases either by repelling or by sup-
pressing them [1,34,35].
9.1. High Levels of Bio-Available Nutrients
for Plants
Earthworms miner alize the nitrogen (N) and phosphorus
(P) and all essential organic & inorganic elements in the
compost to make it bio-available to plants as nutrients
[36]. They recycle nitrogen in soil in very short time
ranging fro m 20 to 200 kg N/ha/year & increase nitrogen
contents by over 85% [37]. After 28 weeks the soil with
living worms contained 75 ppm of nitrate nitrogen (N),
compared with the controlled soil which had only 45
ppm [38]. Worms increase nitrogen levels in soil by
adding their metabolic & excretory products (vermicast),
mucus, body fluid, enzymes and decaying tissues of
dead worms [39,40]. Lee [41] suggests that the passage
of organic matter through the gut of worm results in
phosphorus (P) converted to forms which are more
bio-available to plants. This is done partly by worm’s gut
enzyme ‘phosphatases’ and partly by the release of
phosphate solubilizing microorganisms in the worm cast
9.2. High Level of Beneficial and
Biologically Active Soil
Among beneficial soil microbes stimulated by earth-
worms are ‘nitrogen-fixing & phosphate solubilizing
bacteria’, the ‘actinomycetes’ & ‘mycorrhizal fungi’.
Stu dies found that the total bacterial count was more than
1010/gm of vermicompost. It included Actinomycetes,
Azotobacter, Rhizobium, Nitrobacter & Phos-phate Solu-
bilizing Bacteria ranges from 102-1 0 6 per gm of vermi-
compost [16].
9.3. Rich in Humus: Key to Grow th and
Survival of Plants
Vermicompost contains ‘humus’ excreted by worms
which makes it markedly different from other organic
fertilizers. It takes several years for soil or any organic
matter to decompose to form humus while earthworms
secrete humus in its excreta. Without humus plants
cannot grow and survive. The humic and fulvic acids in
humus are essential to plants in four basic ways – 1)
Enables plant to extract nutrients from soil; 2) Help
dissolve unresolved minerals to make organic matter
ready for plants to use; 3) Stimulates root growth; and, 4)
Helps plants overcome stress. Presence of humus in soil
even help chemical fertilizers to work better [43]. This
was also confirmed by other study [44]. One study
found that humic acids isolated from vermicompost
enhanced root elongation and formation of lateral roots
in maize roots. Humus in vermicast also extracts ‘tox-
ins’, ‘harmful fungi & bacteria’ from soil & protects
plants [19].
9.4. Rich in Plant Growth Hormones
Some studies speculated that the growth responses of
plants from vermicompost appeared more like ‘hor-
mone-induced activity’ associated with the high levels of
nutrients, humic acids and humates in vermicompost [21,
45]. Researches show that vermicompost use further
stimulates plant growth even when plants are already
receiving ‘optimal nutrition’. It consistently improved
seed germination, enhanced seedling growth and devel-
opment, and increased plant productivity significantly
much more than would be possible from the mere con-
version of mineral nutrients into plant-available forms.
Some studies have also reported that vermicompost con-
tained growth promoting hormone ‘auxins’, ‘cytokinins’
and flowering hormone ‘gibberlins’ secreted by earth-
worms [16,47,48].
9.5. Enzymes for Improving Soil Nutrients &
Vermicompost contain enzymes like amylase, lipase,
cellulase and chitinase, which continue to break down
organic matter in the soil (to release the nutrients and
make it available to the plant roots) even after th ey have
been excreted. [30,31]. They also increases the levels of
some important soil enzymes like dehydrogenase, acid
and alkaline phosphatases and urease. Urease play a key
role in N-cycle as it hydrolyses urea and phosphatase
bioconvert soil phosphorus into bio-available form for
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Studies indicate that Esinea fetida can tolerate soils
nearly half as salty as seawater i.e. 15 gm/k g of soil and
also improve its biology and chemistry. (Average sea-
water salinity is around 35 g/L). Farmers at Phaltan in
Satara district of Maharashtra, India, applied live earth-
worms to their sugarcane crop grown on saline soils ir-
rigated by saline ground water. The yield was 125 tones/
hectare of sugarcane and there was marked improvement
in soil chemistry. Within a year there was 37% more
nitrogen, 66% more phosphates and 10% more potash.
The chloride content was less by 46% [27].
Ansari [49] studied th e production of potato (Solanum
tuberosum) by application of vermicompost in a re-
claimed sodic soil in India. With good potato growth the
sodicity (ESP) of the soil was also reduced from initial
96.74 to 73.68 in just about 12 weeks. The average
available nitrogen (N) content of th e soil increased from
initial 336.00 kg/h a to 829.33 kg/ha.
Earthworms are both ‘plant growth promoter and pro-
tector’. There has been considerable evidence in recent
years regarding the ability of earthworms and its vermi-
compost to protect plants against various pests and dis-
eases either by suppressing or repelling them or by in-
ducing biological resistance in plants to fight them or by
killing them through pesticidal action. The actinomycetes
fungus excreted by the earthworms in their vermicast
produce chemicals that kill parasitic fungi such as Py-
thium and Fusarium [34]. Another study confirmed that
application of vermicompost reduced the damage by
stripted cucumber beetle (Acalymma vittatum), spotted
cucumber beetle (Diabotrica undecimpunctata) on cu-
cumber and larval hornworms (Manduca quinquemacu-
lata) on tomatoes in both greenhouse and field experi-
ments [50].
11.1. Ability to Induce Biological Resistance
in Plants
Vermicompost contains some antibiotics and actinomy-
cetes which help in increasing the ‘power of biological
resistance’ among the crop plants against pest and di seases.
Spray of chemical pesticides was significantly reduced
by over 75% where earthworms and vermicompost were
used in agriculture [13,16].
11.2. Ability to Repel Crop Pests
There seems to be strong evidence that worms varmi-
castings sometimes repel hard-bodied pests [1,33]. Stu-
dies reported statistically significant decrease in arthro-
pods (aphids, buds, mealy bug, spider mite) populations,
and subsequent reduction in plant damage, in tomato,
pepper, and cabbage trials with 20% and 40% vermi-
compost additions [34]. George Hahn, doing commercial
vermicomposting in California, U.S., claims that his
product repels many different insects pests. His explana-
tion is that this is due to production of enzymes ‘chiti-
nase’ by worms which breaks down the chitin in the in-
sect’s exoskelton [17].
11.3. Ability to Suppress Plant Disease
Studies reported that vermicompost application sup-
pressed 20-40% infection of insect pests i.e. aphids
(Myzus persicae), mearly bugs (Pseudococcus spp.) and
cabbage white caterpillars (Peiris brassicae) on pepper
(Capiscum annuum), cabbage (Brassica oleracea) and
tomato (Lycopersicum esculentum) [51].
Studies have also found that use of vermicompost in
crops inhibited the soil-born fungal diseases. They also
found significant suppression of plant-parasitic nema-
todes in field trials with pepper, tomatoes, strawberries
and grapes [34]. The scientific explanation behind this
concept is that high levels of agronomically beneficial
microbial population in vermicompost protects plants by
out-competing plant pathogens for available food re-
sources i.e. by starving them and also by blocking their
excess to plant roots by occupying all the available sites.
This concept is based on ‘soil-foodweb’ stu die s pio ne ered
by Dr. Elaine Ingham of Corvallis, Oregon, U.S.
Edwards and Arancon [27] also reported the disease
suppressing effects of applications of vermicompost, on
attacks by fungus Pythium on cucumber, Rhizoctonia on
radishes in the greenhouse, by Verticillium on strawber-
ries and by Phomposis and Sphaerotheca fulginae on
grapes in the field. In all these experiments vermicom-
post applications suppressed the incidence of the disease
significantly. They also found that the ability of patho-
gen suppression disappeared when the vermicompost
was sterilized, convincingly indicating that the biologi-
cal mechanism of disease suppression involved was
‘microbial antagonism.
Studies also reported considerable suppression of root
knot nematode (Meloidogyne incognita) and drastic
suppression of spotted spider mites (Tetranychus spp.)
and aphid (Myzus persicae) in tomato plants after appli-
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cation of vermicompost teas (vermiwash liquid) [52].
They are serious pests of several crops.
There have been several reports that earthworms and its
vermicompost can induce excellent plant growth and
enhance crop production.
12.1. Cereal Crops
Glasshouse studies made at CSIRO Australia found that
the earthworms (Aporrectodea trapezoids) increased
growth of wheat crops (Triticum aestivum) by 39%,
grain yield by 35%, lifted protein value of the grain by
12% & also resisted crop diseases as compared to the
control. The plants were grown in a ‘red-brown earth’
with poor nutritional status and 60% moisture. There
was about 460 worms m-2 [53]. They also reported that
in Parana, Brazil invasion of earthworms significantly
altered soil structure and water holding capacity. The
grain yields of wheat and soybean increased by 47% and
51%, respectively [54].
Some studies were made on the impact of vermicom-
post and garden soil in different proportion on wheat
crops in India. It was found that when the garden soil
and vermicompost were mixed in 1:2 proportions, the
growth was about 72-76% while in pure vermicompost,
the growth increased by 82-89% [55]. Another study
reported that earthworms & its vermicast improve the
growth and yield of wheat by more than 40% [56]. Other
studies also reported better yield and growth in wheat
crops applied with vermicompost in so il. [57-59].
Studies made on the agronomic impacts of vermi-
compost on rice crops (Oryza sativa) reported greater
population of nitrogen fixers, actinomycetes and my-
corrhizal fungi inducing better nutrient uptake by crops
and better growth [60]. Another study was made on the
impact of vermicompost on rice-legume cropping system
in India. Integrated application of vermicompost, chemi-
cal fertilizer and biofertilizers (Azospirillum & phospho-
bacteria) increased rice yield by 15.9% over chemical
fertilizer used alone. The integrated application of 50%
vermicompost, 50% chemical fertilizer and biofertilizers
recorded a grain yield of 6.25 and 0.51 ton/ha in the rice
and legume respectively. These yields were 12.2% and
19.9% higher over those obtained with 100% chemical
fertilizer when used alone [61]. Studies made in the
Philippines also reported good response of upland rice
crops grown on vermicompost [62].
12.2. Fruit Crops
Study found that worm-worked waste (vermicompost)
boosted grape yield by two-fold as compared to chemi-
cal fertilizers. Treated vines with vermicompost pro-
duced 23% more grapes due to 18% increase in bunch
numbers. The yield in grapes was worth additional value
of AU $ 3,400/ha [63]. Farmer in Sangli district of Ma-
harashtra, India, grew grapes on ‘eroded wastelands’ and
applied vermicasting @ 5 tons/ha. The grape harvest was
normal with improvement in quality, taste and shelf life.
Soil analysis showed that within one year pH came
down from 8.3 to 6.9 and the value of potash increased
from 62.5 kg/ha to 800 kg/ha. There was also marked
improvement in the nutritional quality of the grape fruits
Study was made on the agronomic impacts of vermi-
compost and inorganic (chemical) fertilizers on straw-
berries (Fragaria ananasa) when applied separately and
also in combination. Vermicompost was applied @ 10
tons/ha while the inorganic fertilizers (nitrogen, phos-
phorus, potassium) @ 85 (N)-155 (P)-125 (K) kg/ha.
Significantly, the ‘yield’ of marketable strawberries and
the ‘weight’ of the ‘largest fruit’ was 35% greater on
plants grown on vermicompost as compared to inorganic
fertilizers in 220 days after transplanting. Also there
were 36% more ‘runners’ and 40% more ‘flowers’ on
plants grown on vermicompost. Also, farm soils applied
with vermicompost had significantly greater ‘microbial
biomass’ than the one applied with inorganic fertilizers
[7]. Studies also reported that vermicompost increased
the yield of strawberries by 32.7% and also drastically
reduced the incidence of physiological disorders like
albinism (16.1% 4.5%), fruit malformations (11.5%
4%), grey mould (10.4% 2.1%) and diseases like
Botrytis rot. By suppressing the nutrient related disor-
ders, vermicompost use increased the yield and quality
of marketable strawberry fruits up to 58.6% [64].
Studies made on the agronomic impact of vermicom-
post on cherries fo und that it increased yield of ‘cherries’
for three (3) years after ‘single application’ inferring that
the use of vermicompost in soil builds up fertility and
restore its vitality for long time and its further use can be
reduced to a minimum after some years of application in
farms. At the first harvest, trees with vermicompost
yielded an additional $ 63.92 and $ 70.42 per tree re-
spectively. After three harvests profits per tree were $
110.73 and $ 142.21 respectively [65].
12.3. Vegetable Crops
Studies on the production of important vegetable crops
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like tomato (Lycopersicum esculentus), eggplant (So-
lanum melangona) and okra (Abelmoschus esculentus)
have yielded very good results [27,66-68 ]. Another study
was made on the growth impacts of earthworms (with
feed materials), vermicompost, cow dung compost and
chemical fertilizers on okra (A. esculentus). Worms and
vermicompost promoted excellent growth in the vegeta-
ble crop with more flowers and fruits development. But
the most significant observation was drastically less in-
cidence of ‘Yellow Vein Mosaic’, ‘Color Rot’ and
‘Powdery Mildew’ diseases in worm and vermicompost
applied plants [69]. Study was made on the production
of potato (Solanum tuberosum) by application of vermi-
compost in a reclaimed sodic soil in India. The overall
productivity of potato was significantly high (21.41
tons/ha) on vermicompost applied @ 6 tons/ha as com-
pared to control which was 04.36 tons/ha. The sodicity
of the soil was also reduced and nitrogen (N) contents
increased significantly [49]. Study was made on the
growth impacts of organic manure (containing earth-
worm vermicasts) on garden pea (Pisum sativum) and
compared with chemical fertilizers. Vermicast produced
higher green pod plants, higher green grain weight per
plant, higher percentage of protein content and carbohy-
drates and higher green pod yield (24.8-91%) as com-
pared to chemical fertilizer [70].
Studies made on the effects of vermicompost &
chemical fertilizer on hyacinth beans (Lablab purpureas)
found that all growth & yield parameters e.g. total chlo-
rophyll contents in leaves, dry matter production, flower
appearance, length of fruits and fruits per plant, dry
weight of 100 seeds, yield per plot and yield per hectare
were significantly higher in those plots which received
vermicompost either alone or in combination with
chemicals. The highest fruit yield of 109 ton/ha was re-
corded in plots which received vermicompost @ 2.5
tons/ha [71].
12.4. Herbage Production
A study was made on the impact of earthworms on soil
properties and herbage production in a field micro-plot
experiment in Ireland. Study site was reclaimed after
industrial peat mining, and seeded with perennial rye-
grass and clover. The presence of earthworms had little
effect on herbage production in the first year. But total
herbage yield was 25% greater in the second year and
49% greater in the third year in plots receiving annual
topdressing of cattle slurry with earthworms compared to
similarly-treated plots with cattle slurry but without
earthworms. Ironically, no effect of earthworms on her-
bage yield was detected in plots receiving chemical fer-
tilizers only [54].
The conclusion drawn from such study is that it is the
earthworms in soil which matters in plant productivity
and not the organic manure (cattle slurry) alone. In the
first year, it took the earthworm to restore and condition
the disturbed mined soil. However, the cattle slurry
(dung) provided the necessary feed materials for the
worms to act with vigor an d excrete nutritive ‘vermicast’
in soil which promoted higher herbage yield in the sec-
ond year (25%). In the third year, the worm population
in soil increased sign ificantly leading to higher excretion
of vermicast, higher soil fertility and higher plant pro-
ducti on (49%).
In a bucket experiment they found that the cumulative
herbage yields over a period of 20 months was 89%
higher in buckets with earthworms added with cattle
manure as compared to those without earthworms but
only with cattle manure, an d only 19% higher in buckets
receiving exclusive chemical fertilizers. These results
were as compared to control.
13.1. Cereal Crops
13.1.1. Farm Wheat Crops (Agriculture
Research Institute, Jaipur, India)
This facility was provided by ARI at Jaipur, India. Re-
sults are given in Table 4.
Key Observ at ion s, F in di ngs and Discussion
In the farm experiment the highest growth and yield in
wheat crop was achieved where reduced dose (3/4) of
chemical fertilizer (NPK- 90:75:60) were supplemented
with full dose of vermicompost (@ 2.5 tons/ha. Although
vermicom post alone can work as ‘driving force’ but when
chemical fertilizers are added as ‘helping hand’ it can do
even better. However, the total yield of the grain (grain/
ear) as well as the ear length of crops grown on vermi-
compost were as good as those grown on full doses of
chemical fertilizers (NPK- 120:100:80).
13.1.2. Farm Wheat Crops (Rajendra Agriculture
University, Bihar, India)
This facility was provided by RAU, Pusa, India under a
collaborative research program. Cattle dung compost
was applied four (4) times more than that of vermicom-
ost. Results are given in Table 5. p
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Table 4. Agronomic impacts of earthworms, vermicompost vis-a-vis chemical fertilizers on farm wheat crops.
Treatments Shoot Length
(cm) Ear Length (cm)Root Length (cm)Wt. of 1000
(In grams) Grains/Ear
1. Vermicompost (@ 2.5 t/ha) 83.71 13.14 23.51 39.28 32.5
2. Earthworms (1000 Nos.)
In 25 × 25 m farm land 67.83 9.85 18.42 36.42 30.0
3 NPK (90:75:60) (Reduced Dose) +
VC (Full Dose) (2.5 t/ha) 88.05 13.82 29.71 48.02 34.4
4 NPK (120:100:80) (Full Dose) 84.42 14.31 24.12 40.42 31.2
5. CONTROL 59.79 8.91 12.11 34.16 27.7
Source: Ph. D Thesis (Reena Sharma [72]); University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, INDIA; Key: VC = Vermicompost; N = Urea; P = Phosphate; K = Potash
(In Kg/hectare).
Table 5. Agronomic impacts of vermicompost, cattle dung
compost & chemical fertilizers in exclusive applications & in
combinations on farmed wheat crops.
Treatment Input/Hectare Yield/Hectare
1) CONTROL (No Input) 15.2 Q/ha
2) Vem icompost
(VC) 25 Quintal VC/ha 40.1 Q/ha
3) Cattle Dung
Compost (CDC) 100 Quintal CDC/ha 33.2 Q/ha
4) Chemical
Fertilizers (CF) NPK (120:60:40) kg/ha 34.2 Q/ha
5) CF + VC NPK (120:60:40) kg/ha
+ 25 Q VC/ha 43.8 Q/ha
6) CF + CDC NPK (120:60:40) kg/ha
+ 100 Q CDC/ha 41.3 Q/ha
Source: Sinha et al. [27]; Key: N = Urea; P = Phosphate; K = Potash
(In Kg/ha)
Key Observations, Findings & Discussion
Exclusive application of vermicompost supported
yield comparable to rather better than chemical fertiliz-
ers. And when same amount of agrochemicals were sup-
plemented with vermicompost @ 25 quintal/ha the yield
increased to about 44 Q/ha which is over 28% and nearly
3 times over control. On cattle dung compost applied @
100 Q/ha (4 times of vermicompost) the yield was just
over 33 Q/ha. Application of vermicompost had other
agronomic benefits. It significantly reduced the demand
for irrigation by nearly 30-40%. Test results indicated
better availability of essential micronutrients and useful
microbes in vermicompost applied soils. Most remark-
able observation was sign ificantly less incid ence of pests
and disease attacks in vermicompost applied crops.
13.1.3. Potted Corn Crops (Griffith University,
Study 1: This was designed to compare the agronomic
impacts of earthworms, vermicompost & worms with
chemical fertilizers on corn plants. Results are given in
Table 6.
Key Observ at ion s, F in di ngs and Discussion
Corn plants with earthworms and vermicompost in
soil achieved very good growth and were better over
chemical fertilizers studied until week 19. While the
plants on chemicals grew only 5 cm (87 cm to 92 cm) in
7 weeks those on vermicompost grew by 15 cm (90 cm
to 105 cm) within the same period. But plants with
earthworms only (without feed) failed to perform. Most
significant finding was that plants on vermicompost de-
manded less water for irrigation.
Study 2: This was designed to test the growth pro-
moting capabilities of earthworms added with feed ma-
terials and ‘vermicompost’, as compared to ‘conventional
compost’. The doses of vermicompost & conventional
compost were ‘doubled’ (400 gm). Crushed dry leaves
were used as feed materials (400 gm). Results are given
in Table 7.
Key Observ at ion s, F in di ngs and Discussion
Corn plants with vermicompost in soil achieved rapid
and excellent growth and attained maturity very fast.
Plants in soil with conventional compost could not
achieve maturity until the period of study (week 14).
Plants with worms (provided with feed) performed better
than those of conventional compost. A significant find-
ing was that when the dose of vermicompost was dou-
bled from 200 grams (Study 1) to 400 grams (Study 2), it
simply enhanced total plant growth to almost two-fold
(from average 58 cm on 200 gm vermicompost to aver-
age 104 cm on 400 gm vermicompost) within the same
period of study i.e. 6 weeks. Corn plants with double
dose of vermicompost achieved maturity in much shorter
time. However, our subsequent studies on potted and
farmed wheat crops showed that once the ‘natural fertil-
ity’ of the soil is restored with vermicompost application
it no long requires higher doses of vermicompost subse-
quently to maintain or enhance productivity [27 ].
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Table 6. Agronomic impacts of earthworms, worms with vermicompost vis-a-vis chemical fertilizers on corn plants (average growth
in cm).
Parameters Studied CONTROL
(No Input)
Treatment 1
Only (25 Nos.)
(Without Feed)
Treatment 2
Treatment 3
(200 gm)
Seed Sowing 29th July 2007 Do Do Do
Seed Germination 9th Day 7th Day 7th Day 7th Day
Avg. Growth in 4 wks 31 40 43 43
Avg. Growth in 6 wks 44 47 61 58
App. Of Male Rep. Organ
(In wk 12) None None
Male Rep. Organ Male Rep. Organ
Avg. Growth in 12 wks 46 53 87 90
App. Of Female Rep. Organ
(In wk 14) None None None
Female Rep. Organ
Avg. Growth in15 wks 48 53
(App. Of Male Rep. Organ)88 95
App. Of New Corn
(In wk 16 ) None None None New Corn
Avg. Growth in 19 wks 53 56 92 105
Color & Texture of Leaves Pale & thin leaves Green & thin Green & stout leaves Green, stout & broad
Source: Sinha et al. [27]
Table 7. Agronomic impacts of earthworms (with feed), vermicompost vis-a-vis conventional compost on corn plants (average
growth in cm)
Parameters Studied Treatment 1 Earthworms (25)
With Feed (400 gm) Treatment 2 Conventional
COMPOST (400 gm) Treatment 3
Seed Sowing 9th Sept. 2007 Do Do
Seed Germination 5th Day 6th Day 5th Day
Avg. Growth In 3 wks 41 42 53
Avg. Growth In 4 wks 49 57 76
App. of Male Rep. Organ (In wk 6) None None
Male Rep. Organ
Avg. Growth In 6 wks 57 70 104
Avg. Growth In 9 wks 64 72.5 120
App. of Female Rep. Organ
(In wk 10) None None
Female Rep. Organ
App. of New Corn (In wk 11) None None
New Corn
Avg. Growth In 14 wks 82 78 135
Color & Texture of Leaves Green & thick Light green & thin Deep green, stout, thick &
broad leaves
Source: Sinha et al. [27]
13.1.4. Potted W h e at Crops (Griffith University,
This was designed to compare the agronomic impacts of
vermicompost with conventional compost & chemical
fertilizers on wheat crops. Results are given in Table 8.
Key Observations, Findings & Discussion
Wheat crops maintained very good growth on vermin-
compost & earthworms from the very beginning &
achieved maturity in 14 weeks. The striking rates of seed
germination were very high, nearly 48 hours (2 days) ahead
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Table 8. Growth of wheat crops promoted by vermicompost,
conventional compost and chemical fertilizers
Treatments Week 1 Week 5 Wee k 10 Week 12
1) Control 17 22 26 26
2) CC 17 31 32 32
3) CF 16 36 39 43
4) VC + EW 19 39 43 47
(VC 500 gm; EW 25 Nos.; CC 500 gm; CF 5 gm x 3 times; Av.
Growth in cm); Key: CC = Conventional Compost; CF = Chemical
Fertilizer; VC = Vermicompost; EW = Earthworms Source: Sinha et al.
of others and the numbers of seed germinated were also
high by nearly 20%.
Plants were greener and healthier over others, with
large numbers of tillers & long seed ears were formed at
maturity. Seeds were healthy and n early 35-40% more as
compared to plants on chemical fertilizers. What they
achieved in just 5 weeks, was achieved by others in 10
weeks. More significant was t hat th e po t soil with v er min-
compost was very soft & porous and retained more mois-
ture. Pot soil with chemicals were hard and demanded
more water frequently [27].
13.2. Vegetable Crops
This was designed to compare the growth impacts of
earthworms, worms with vermicompost and chemical
fertilizers on egg plants. Results are given in Table 9.
13.2.1. Potted Egg Plant s (University of Rajsthan,
Jaipur, India 1998
Key Observ at ion s, F in di ngs and Discussion
Potted egg-plants grown on vermicompost with live
earthworms in soil bored on average 20 fruits/plan t with
average weight being 675 gm. Whereas, those grown on
chemical fertilizers (NPK) bored only 14 fruits/plant
with average weight being only 500 gm. Total numbers
of fruits obtained from vermicompost (with worms) ap-
plied plants were 100 with maximum weight being 900
gm while those on chemicals were 70 fruits and 625 gm
as maximum weight of a fruit. Interestingly, egg-plants
grown on exclusive vermicompost (without worms) did
not perform as with those with worms, but were signify-
cantly better over those on chemical fertilizers.
13.2.2. Potted Okra Plants (University of
Rajasthan, Jaipur, India 1998
This was designed to compare the growth impacts of
earthworms, worms with vermicompost and chemical
fertilizers on okra plants. Results are given in Table 10.
Key Observ at io n s, F in di ngs and Discussion
Potted okra plants grown on vermicompost (with live
worms in soil) bored on average 45 fruits/plant with av-
erage weight being 48 gm. Whereas, those grown on
chemical fertilizers (NPK) bored only 24 fruits/plant
with average weight being only 40 gm. Total numbers of
fruits obtained from vermicompost (with worms) applied
plants were 225 wit h m a ximum weight being 70 gm while
those on chemicals were 125 fruits and 48 gm as maxi-
mum weight of a fruit. Again, okra plants grown on ex-
clusive vermicompost (without worms) did not perform
as with those with worms, but were significantly better
over those on chemical fertilizers.
13.2.3. Potted Tomato Plants (Griffith University,
Australia 2009)
This was designed to compare the agronomic impacts of
vermicompost & worms with composted cow manure
from market & chemical fertilizers on tomato plants.
Results are given in Table 11.
Key Observ at ion s, F in di ngs and Discussion
Tomato plants on vermicompost & vermicompost
with worms maintained very good gro wth fro m the very
beginning. Number of flowers and fruits per plant were
also significantly high as compared to those on agro-
chemicals and conventional compost. Presence of earth-
worms in soil made a significant difference in ‘flower
and fruit formation’ in tomato plan ts. Th is was obv iously
Table 9. Agrono mic im pacts of vermicom post, ea rthworms & verm icompost vi s-a-vis chem ical f ertilizer on growth & dev elopment of
egg plants.
Treatments Av. Vegetative
Growth (In Inches)Av. No. of
Fruits/Plant Av. Wt. of
Fruits/Plant Total No. of Fruits Max. Wt. of One
1. Earthworms (50 Nos.) +
VC * (250 gm) 28 20 675 gm 100 900 gm
2. Vermicompost (250 gm) 23 15 525 gm 75 700 gm
3. Chemical Fertilizer
(NPK) (Full dose) 18 14 500 gm 70 625 gm
4. CONTROL 16 10 425 gm 50 550 gm
(N.B. Value of vegetative growth was taken that was achieved on the 90th day of the study, while the fruiting was estimated from the 45th day & end-
ing with over 120 days); Source: Sinha et al. [27]; Key: VC = Vermicompost
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Table 10. Agronomic impacts of vermicompost, worms with vermicompost vis-a-vis chemical fertilizer on growth & development of
okra plants.
Treatment Av. Vegetative
Growth (In Inches) Av. No. of
Fruits/Plant Av. Wt. of
Fruits/Plant To tal No. of Fruits Max. Wt. of One
1. Earthworms
(50 Nos.) + VC* 39.4 45 48 gm 225 70 gm
2. Vermicompost
(250 gm) 29.6 36 42 gm 180 62 gm
3. Chemical Fertilizer
(NPK) (Full dose) 29.1 24 40 gm 125 48 gm
4. CONTROL 25.6 22 32 gm 110 43 gm
(N.B. Value of vegetative growth was taken that was achieved on the 90th day of the study, while the fruiting was estimated after 45th day and ending
with over 120 days); Source: Sinha et al. [27]
Ta ble 11. Growth of tomato plants promoted by vermicompost, vermicompost with earthworms, conventional compost (composted
cow manure) & chemical fertilizers (All seedlings measured 5 cm; Average growth in cm).
Parameters Studied Control Chemical Fertilizers
(5 gm × 3 times) Composted Cow
Manure (500 gm) Vermicompost
(250 gm) Vermicompost (250 gm)
+ Earthworms (50)
1).Avg. Growth in 2
Wks. 10 16 16 18 19
2). Avg. Growth in 4
Wks. 30 49 35 60 60
3). Number of
flowers (Wk.5) 8 17 10 27 31
4). Avg. Growth in 6
Wks. 40 70 51 118 125
5). Avg. Growth in 8
Wks. 48 108 53 185 188
6). Number of fruits
(Wk. 9) 4 16 6 22 27
7). Avg. Growth after 10
Wks. 50 130 53 207 206
Source: Sinha & Valani [27]
due to more ‘growth & flowering hormones’ (auxins and
gibberlins) available in the soil secreted by live earth-
worms. Very disappo inting was the results of composted
cow manure obtained from the market with branded
name. It could not compete with vermicompost (indige-
nously prepared from food waste) even when applied in
‘double dose’.
The brownish-red liquid which collects in all vermcom-
posting practices is also productive and protective for
farm crops. This liquid partially comes from the body of
earthworms (as worm’s body contain plenty of water)
and is rich in amino acids, vitamins, nutrients like nitro-
gen, potassium, magnesium, zinc, calcium, iron and cop-
per and some growth hormones like ‘auxins’, ‘cytokinins’.
It also contains plenty of nitrogen fixing and phosphate
solubilising bacteria (nitrosomonas, nitrobacter and ac-
tinomycetes). Vermiwash has great ‘growth promoting’
as well as ‘pest killing’ properties. Study reported that
weekly application of vermiwash increased radish yield
by 7.3% [73,74]. Another study also reported that both
growth and yield of paddy increased with the application
of vermiwash and vermicast extracts [75].
Farmers from Bihar in North India reported growth
promoting and pesticidal properties of this liquid. They
used it on brinjal and tomato with excellent results. The
plants were healthy and bore bigger fruits with unique
shine over it. Spray of vermiwash effectively controlled
all incidences of pests and diseases, significantly re-
duced the use of chemical pesticides and insecticides on
vegetable crops and the products were significantly dif-
ferent from oth ers wi t h hi g h m a rket val ue.
George [76] studied the use of vermiwash for the
management of ‘Thrips’ (Scirtothrips dorsalis) and
‘Mites’ (Polyphagotarsonemus latus) on chilli amended
with vermicompost to evaluate its efficacy against thrips
R. K. Sinha et al. / Agricultura l Sciences 1 (2010) 76-94
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. Openly accessi ble at http://www.scirp.org/journal/AS/
and mites. Vermiwash was used in three different dilu-
tions e.g. 1:1, 1:2 and 1:4 by mixing with water both as
‘seedling dip’ treatment and ‘foliar spray’. Six rounds of
vermiwash sprays were taken up at 15 days interval
commencing at two weeks after transplanting. Among
the various treatments, application of vermicompost @
2.5 ton/ha with 6 sprays of vermiwash at 1:1 dilution
showed significantly lower incidence of thrips and mites
attack. It registered very low mean population of thrips
and mites as 0.35 and 0.64 per leaf respectively. It also
registered significantly maximum dry chilli yield @ 2.98
quintal/ha. Giraddi et al. [74] also reported significantly
lower pest population in chilli applied with vermiwash
(soil drench 30 days after transplanting, and foliar spray
at 60 and 75 days after transplanting) as compared to
untreated crops.
Suthar [77] has reported hormone like substances in
vermiwash. He studied its impact on seed germination,
root & shoot length in Cyamopsis tertagonoloba and
compared with urea solution (0.05%). Maximum germi-
nation was 90% on 50% vermiwash as compared to
61.7% in urea solution. Maximum root and shoot length
was 8.65 cm & 12.42 cm on 100% vermiwash as com-
pared to 5.87 & 7.73 on urea. The seedlings with 100%
vermiwash foliar spray showed the maximum level of
total protein and soluble sugars in their tissues.
Vermicompost can be used in any crop and in any
amount as it is ‘completely safe’ for soils and crops in all
amounts. However, several studies including ours, indi-
cate that vermicompost is required in much ‘lesser
amount’ as compared to all other bulky organic fertiliz-
ers e.g. composted cattle dung (cow, horse & pig ma-
nures and sheep & goat droppings) composted MSW and
composted plant residues to promote optimal growth and
yield. This is because they contain ‘high nutrients with
growth hormones’ and are 4-5 times more powerful
growth promoters than all other organic fertilizers and
over 30-40% higher over the chemical fertilizers (NKP).
Study made by Central Research Institute for Dryland
Agriculture, Hyderabad, India have provided a report
which is given in Table 12.
Worldwide farmers are desperate to get rid of the vicious
Table 12. Recommended quantity and time of application of
vermicompost in some crops.
Crop Quantity Time of Application
1). Rice (Paddy) 1 ton/acre After Transplanting
2). Maize (Corn) 1 ton/acre Last Ploughing
3). Sugarcane 1.5 ton/acre Last Ploughing
4). Groundnut 0.5 ton/acre Last Ploughing
5). Sunflower 1.5 ton/acre Last Ploughing
6). Chilli 1 ton/acre Last Plo u g h ing
7). Potato 1-1.5 ton/acre Last Ploughing
8). To mato 1-1.5 ton/acre Last Ploughing
9). Brinjal 1-1.5 ton/acre Last Ploughing
10). Okra 1-1.5 ton/acre Last Ploughing
11). Cauliflowers 1-1.5 to n/acre Last Ploughing
12). Cabbage 1-1.5 ton/acre Last Ploughing
13). Garlic 1-1.5 ton/acre Last Ploughing
14). Onion 1-1.5 ton/acre Last Ploughing
15). Grape
(Vineyards) 1 ton/acre Summer time
16). Citrus 2 kg/tree At planting time &
before flowering
17). Pomegranate 2 kg/tree At planting time &
before flowering
18). Guava 2 kg/tree At planting time &
before flowering
2 kg/tree A t plant ing time
5 kg/tree 1-5 years old trees
10 kg/tree 6-9 years old trees
19). Mango &
20 kg/tree Trees older than 10
20). Cotton 1 ton/acre Last Ploughing
Source: CRIDA (2009), Hyderabad, India [78]
circle of the use of chemical fertilizers as their cost hav e
been constantly rising and also the amount of chemicals
used per hectare has been steadily increasing over the
years to maintain the yield & productivity of previous
years. Nearly 3-4 times of agro-chemicals are now be-
ing used per hectare what was used in the 1960s. In
Australia, the cost of MAP fertilizer has risen from AU
$ 530.00 to AU $ 1500.00 per ton since 2006. So is the
story everywhere in world because the chemical fertiliz-
ers are produced from ‘vanishing resources’ of earth.
Farmers urgently need a sustainable alternative which is
both economical and also productive while also main-
taining soil health & fertility. The new concept is ‘Eco-
logical Agriculture’ which is by definition different from
R. K. Sinha et al. / Agricultura l Sciences 1 (2010) 76-94
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. Openly accessi ble at http://www.scirp.org/journal/AS/
‘Organic Farming’ that was focused mainly on produc-
tion of chemical-free foods. Ecological agriculture em-
phasize on total protection of food, farm & human eco-
systems while improving soil fertility & development of
secondary source of income for the farmers. UN has also
endorsed it. Vermiculture provides the best answer for
ecological agriculture which is synonymous with ‘sus-
tainable agriculture’.
A movement is going on in India, China, Philippines,
Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Australia, U.S., Canada, Rus-
sia and Japan to vermicompost the organic fractions of
all their municipal solid wastes (MSW) and among the
farmers to vermicompost their farm wastes and use them
as a complete ‘organic fertilizer ’ for crops as an alterna-
tive to the chemical fertilizers or supplement them with
highly reduced doses of chemical fertilizers. Municipal
councils, NGOs and composting companies are also
participating in vermicomposting business, composting
all types of organic wastes on commercial scale and
selling them to the farmers. This has dual benefits. Cut-
ting cost on landfill disposal of waste while earning
revenues from sale of worms & vermicompost [17,
27,79]. ‘Vermicycle Organics’ in the U.S. produces 7.5
million pounds of vermicompost every year in high-tech
greenhouses and sell to the farmers. Its sale of vermi-
compost grew by 500% in 2005. ‘Vermitechnology Un-
limited’ in U.S. has doubled its business every year since
1991 [80].
A ‘Vermiculture Movement’ is going on in India with
multiple objectives of community waste management,
highly economical way of crop production replacing the
costly chemical fertilizers and poverty eradication pro-
grams in villages [81].
Farmers in India are being motivated to embrace ver-
miculture in farming. This is mainly in the States of
Karanatka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab,
Harayana, Himachal Pradesh and Bihar. Apple growers
in Himachal are using vermicompost on large scale with
very good profit.
A number of villages in the districts of Samastipur,
Hazipur and Nalanda in the State of Bihar have been
designated as ‘Bio-Village’ where the farmers have
completely switched over to organic farming by ver-
micompost and h ave given up the use of che mical fertil-
izers since 2005. Some of them asserted to have har-
vested three (3) different crops in a year (reaping 2-3
times more harvest) due to their rapid growth & maturity,
and reduced harvest cycle. (Authors takes pride in moti-
vating farmers in Bihar through personal contacts under
a collaborative research program between Griffith Uni-
versity, Australia and Rajendra Agriculture University,
Some of the important revelation by farmers about use
of vermicompost were
1) Reduced use of ‘water for irrigation’;
2) Reduced ‘pest attack’ (by at least 75%) especially
after spray of vermiwash (liquid drained during vermi-
3) Reduced ‘termite attack’ in farm soil especially
where worms were in good population;
4) Reduced ‘weed growth’;
5) Faster rate of ‘seed germination’ and rapid seed-
lings growth and development;
6) Greater numbers of fruits per plant (in vegetable
crops) and greater numbers of seeds per ear (in cereal
crops), heavier in weight—better in both, quantity and
quality as compared to those grown on chemicals;
7) Fruits and vegetables had ‘better taste’ and texture
and could be safely stored up to 6-7 days, while those
grown on chemicals could be kept at the most for 2-3
8) Fodder growth was increased by nearly 50% @ 30
to 40 quintal/hectare;
9) Flower production (commercial floriculture) was
increased by 30%-50% @ 15-20 quintal/hectare. Flower
blooms were more colorful and bigger in size;
A matter of considerable economic and environmental
significance is that the ‘cost of food production’ by ver-
micompost (produced locally on-farm from organic
wastes diverted from landfill disposal at high cost) will
be significantly low by more than 60-70% as compared
to chemical fertilizers (produced in factories from van-
ishing petroleum products using huge electricity) and the
food produced will be a ‘safe chemical-free food’ for the
society. Due to enhanced colour, taste, smell and flavour
of food products f armers gets higher price for their farm
products. It is a ‘win-win’ situation for both producers
(farmers) and the consumers (feeders).
And with the growing global popularity of ‘organic
foods’ which became a US $ 6.5 billion business every
year by 2000, there will be great demand for vermicom-
post in future. US Department of Agriculture estimates
25% of Americans purchase organically grown foods at
least once a week. The cost of production of vermicom-
R. K. Sinha et al. / Agricultura l Sciences 1 (2010) 76-94
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. Openly accessi ble at http://www.scirp.org/journal/AS/
post is simply insignificant as compared to chemical
fertilizers. While the vermicompost is produced from
‘human waste’—a raw material which is in plenty all
over the world, chemical fertilizers are obtained from
‘petroleum products’ which is a vanishing resource on
earth. Vermicompost can be produced ‘on-farm’ at low-
cost by simple devices, while the ch emical fertilizers are
high-tech & high-cost products made in factories [17,
Use of vermicompost in farm soil eventually leads to
increase in the number of earthworm population in the
farmland over a period of time as the baby worms grow
out from their cocoons. It infers that slowly over the
years, as the worms build up the soil’s physical, chemi-
cal & biological properties, the amount of vermicompost
can be slowly reduced while maintainin g the same yield.
The yield per hectare may also increase further as the
soil’s natural fertility is restored & strengthened. On the
contrary, in chemical agriculture, the amount of chemi-
cals used per hectare has been steadily increasing over
the years to maintain the same yield as the soil became
‘addict’. Nearly 3-4 times of agro-chemicals are now
being used per hectare what was use d in the 19 6 0s.
Vermicompost is able to retain more soil moisture and
also protects crops from pests & diseases thus reducing
the demand of water for irrigation by nearly 30-40% and
pest & disease control by almost 75%. This significantly
cut down on the cost of production. As it also helps the
crops to attain maturity and reproduce faster, it shortens
the ‘harvesting time’. This further cuts on the cost of
production and also adds to the economy of farmers as
they can grow more crops every year in the same farm
While vermicompost production & use is an ‘envi-
ronmentally friendly’ practices (salvaging waste & im-
proving soil properties), production of chemical fertiliz-
ers is ‘environmentally damaging’ (generating hazardous
wastes & pollutants and greenhouse gases) in its entire
life-cycle, since harnessing of raw materials from the
earth crust, to their processing in factories (generating
huge waste and pollution) and application in farms (pol-
luting soil & killing beneficial organisms) with severe
economic & environmental implications. Production and
use of 1 kg of chemical nitrogen fertilizer emits 2,500
gm of CO2, 10 gm N2O & 1 gm CH4. Molecule to
molecule, N2O and CH4 are 310 & 22 times more pow-
erful GHG than CO2. Earthworms converts a product of
‘negative’ economic & environmental value i.e. ‘waste’
into a product of ‘highly positive’ economic & environ-
mental values i.e. ‘highly nutritive organic fertilizer’
(brown gold) and ‘safe food’ (green gold). Vermiculture
can maintain the global ‘human sustainability cycle’
producing food back from food & farm wastes.
Earthworms biomass comes as a valuable by-product
in all vermicomposting practices and they are good
source of nutritive ‘worm meal’. They are rich in pro-
teins (65%) with 70-80% high quality essential amino
acids ‘lysine’ and ‘methionine’ and are being used as
feed material to promote ‘fish ery’ and ‘poultry’ industry.
They are also finding new use as a source of ‘bioactive
compounds’ (enzymes) for production of modern medi-
cines for cardiovascular diseases and cure for cancer in
the making of ‘antibiotics’ from the ceolomic fluid as it
has anti-pathogenic properties. On commercial scale
tons of worm biomass can result every year as under
favorable conditions worms ‘double’ their number at
least every 60-70 days.
If vermi-products (worms, vermicompost & vermi-
wash) are able to replace agrochemicals in food produc-
tion and protein rich worms provide nutritive feeds for
fishe ry an d pou ltry produ ction it wo uld t ruly help achie ve
greater sustainability in production of ‘safe food’ for
mankind in future [83,84].
Our studies and those of other learned authors have con-
clusively proved that earthworms and its excreta (ver-
micast) or even its body fluids (vermiwash) have tre-
mendous crop growth promoting and protecting potential
and may work as the main ‘driving force’ in sustainable
food production while maintaining soil health and fertil-
ity and can completely replace the use of agro-chemicals
from farm production or just require them as ‘helping
hand’ [83,84]. Vermicompost also reinforce plants phy-
siologically to attain maturity and reproduce faster, thus
reducing the ‘life-cycle’ of crops and also shortening the
‘harvesting time’. Reduced incidence of ‘pest and dis-
ease attack’, ‘controlling pests without pesticides’ and
‘better taste of chemical-free organic food pr oducts esp e-
cially ‘fruits and vegetables’ grown with earthworms and
vermicompost are matter of great socio- economic and
environmental significance.
In case of fruits and vegetable crops presence of
earthworms in soil make a big difference in growth per-
formance. It looks worms have more positive impacts on
flowering of horticultural crops and significantly aid in
fruit development obviously due to secretion of growth
hormones ‘auxins’ and ‘gibberlins’ [22,69,85]. No won-
der then, Surpala, in 10th century A.D. recommended to
add earthworms in pomegranate plants to obtain good
Use of vermicompost in farm soil eventually leads to
increase in the number of earthworm population in the
farmland over a period of time as the baby worms grow
out from their cocoons. Slowly over the years, as the
R. K. Sinha et al. / Agricultura l Sciences 1 (2010) 76-94
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. Openly accessi ble at http://www.scirp.org/journal/AS/
worms & vermicompost build up the soil’s physical,
chemical and biological properties of soil and restore its
natural fertility, reduced amount of vermicompost will be
required to maintain productivity. This is contrary to
those with chemical fertilizers whose amount of use has
gradually increased over the years.
More studies is required to develop the potential of ver-
micompost teas (vermiwash) as a sustainable, non-toxic
and environmentally friendly alternative to ‘chemical
pest control’ or at least its application in farming prac-
tices can also lead to significant reduction in use of
chemical pesticides.
Earthworms are truly justifying the beliefs and fulfill-
ing the dreams of Sir Charles Darwin who called earth-
worms as ‘unheralded soldiers’ of mankind’ and ‘friends
of farmers’. It is also justifying the beliefs of Dr. Anatoly
Igonin one of the great contemporary vermiculture sci-
entist from Russia who said ‘Earthworms create soil &
improve soil’s fertility and provides critical biosphere’s
functions: disinfecting, neutralizing, protective and pro-
ductive’ [86].
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