What is Vermi Casting?

Vermi/Earthworm Castings Organic Fertilizer is an all purpose natural fertilizer that comes to you straight from nature with no alterations whatsoever. Wiggle Worms night crawlers are fed very rich peat humus which contains a wide variety of minerals and trace elements. The earthworms digest this material and in its' passage through the worm, it is beneficially altered both chemically and physically. The end product is "super humus" which is extremely fertile top soil. Earthworm castings contain rich proportions of water soluble nutrients. This is a primary reason for being able to provide incredible results. Wiggle Worm Fertilizer allows plants to quickly and easily absorb all essential nutrients and trace elements. This is possible because the earthworm grinds and uniformly mixes the nutrients and trace elements in simple forms, so plants need only minimal effort to obtain them. Though they may have many nutrients and/or higher analyses, the ability of plants to optimally use them is limited because they are not broken down to the degree in which the earthworm is able to provide them. As well as an abundance of available nutrients, vermi compost or earthworm compost fertilizer also provides a perfect mix of nutrients that are not readily available, but present for long term nutritional needs. Worm Castings Natures most widely used and truly remarkable fertilizer provides essential nutrients, including over 60 trace minerals and humus. Even though castings have low NPK values, worm castings provide nature’s perfect blend of micro and macro nutrients which are available for immediate as well as time released long lasting nutrition.100% organic worm castings will not burn even the most delicate plants.

How does it work? ?

Until recently scientific documentation of the responses of plants to the application of vermicast to soil or container media has been poor, even though anecdotal evidence has been abundant.

Over the past five years the soil ecology laboratory at the Ohio State University has developed a comprehensive research program in vermicomposting. They have found consistently the addition of relatively small amounts of worm castings to standard horticultural container mixes, and even commercially prepared premium quality container media has resulted in dramatic improvements to plant growth.

A consistent and interesting trend for trials with plants grown in container media is for the best responses to occur when worm castings constitute only 10 - 20% of the volume of the mix and with increasing proportions of castings not always improving plant growth as well. Pasture trials have shown the same effects with as little as 20 - 40 grams of vermicast per square metre making significant improvements to grass growth.

Broad acre application of 200kg /ha of vermicast onto lucerne gave a 15% increase in yield. The low % of castings required for a dramatic response indicate that the dramatic responses are more than simply a function of supplying plant nutrients and that other related growth stimulants are involved.

It has now been found that vermicast increases microbial populations, and adds biologically active metabolites such as plant growth regulators (aukins, cytokinnins and gibberellins ). The addition of vermicast has consistently improved seed germination, enhanced seedling growth and development and increased plant productivity much more than would be possible from the mere conversion of mineral nutrients into more plant available forms.

Vermicast has also been shown to reduce the incidence of plant diseases. Research indicates that microbial activity and the make up of the microbial communities existing in vermicast play an important role in plant growth responses. The reason being that different microbes act on different substances from simple sugars to complex substances. If any are missing it will inhibit growth. The diversity of microbes in vermicast allows all substrates to be broken down.

The role of earthworm derived humic acids has also received much attention recently. Humic acids are produced by the breakdown of organic matter by microorganisms . They are generally negatively charged so attracting positive ions, for example calcium. Humic substances promote the conversion of a number of elements into forms available to plants, of particular importance is phosphate. Phosphate reacts with other minerals in the soil, (particularly iron and aluminium) and becomes locked or unavailable to plants. Humic acids help substitute iron and aluminium with other elements e.g calcium making phosphate plant available.

Enhancing this is mycorrhizal fungi. Vermicast contains large concentrations of mycorrhizal fungi spores. Enzymes associated with this fungi are able to unlock soil phosphate making it plant available. Mycorrhizal fungi work mutualistically with plant roots extending the roots network throughout the soil. Mycorrhizal fungi supply the roots with important nutrients such as phosphorous and the plant supplies the fungi with carbon. This association is very important for plants such as clover.

Vermicast is humus rich. The break down of organic material by earth worms accelerates the humification of organic matter. The humic and fulvic acids produced in this process have been proven to stimulate plant growth beyond that produced by solely the mineral nutrient found in vermicast. Humic acids are large complex molecules. Partial oxidation of humic acids allow bonding sites for plant nutrients including calcium and magnesium and other humic like materials produced in the faeces of earthworms which exhibit auxin, gibberellin and cytokinin like activities.

Studies of the positive effects of these humic substances on plant growth when full requirements for mineral nutrition are met resulted consistently in positive effects on growth independent of nutrition. Humic acids have been reported to enhance mineral uptake by plants by increasing the permeability of membranes of the root cells. Vermicast humic acids appear to have greater effects upon the root growth of the plants than on the above ground parts of the plant. Stimulation of root growth, increased proliferation of root hairs, and enhancement of root initiation by humic acids have been reported commonly by several other researchers.

The best plant growth responses are when vermicast and traditional fertilisers are used together.