Vermicompost for Chemical Free Vegetables
Vermicompost is made from bio-degradable wastes that are easily available in hiouseholds. It grows crops without the help of insecticides and medicines. It is affordable and helps to retain the fertility of the soil. However, not a lot of people are aware of its advantages. If this technology can be spread more widely, the farmers can enjoy more profit and we can enjoy chemical free vegetables.
S Dilip Roy
At least 250 farm families at twenty villages in two upazilas in Lalmonirhat district are now growing chemical free vegetables in their lands using vermicompost fertilizer. They are getting expected profit producing vermicompost fertilizer in their home. Vermicompost fertilizer has brought hope and profit for the farmers and their families in these villages. A non-government organization (NGO) Rangpur Dinajpur Rural Service (RDRS) is playing a vital role through giving help and technical support among the farm families to produce vermicompost for growing chemical free vegetables in their lands using vermicompost fertilizer. It is helping to spray, produce and use vermicompost among all the farmers everywhere in the district.
Vermicompost is the compost developed from excreta of earthworms, which is rich in humus. It is an organic manure (bio-fertilizer) produced by earthworms feeding on biological waste material as well as plant residues. It is a process of using worms and micro-organisms to turn kitchen waste and cow dung into black, earthy-smelling, nutrient-rich humus. Earthworms eat partially decomposed cow dung or farm yard manure along with farm wastes and pass it through their body and then give up excreta called vermicompost.
This compost is an odorless and clean organic material containing adequate quantities of nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potash and several micro-nutrients essential for plant growth. It is eco-friendly, non-toxic, consumes low energy input for composting and is a re-cycled biological product. The worms used in vermicomposting are called red worms (Eisenia foetida). Red worms prefer temperatures between 55 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit and are suited to live in cement made container. However, the temperature of the container should not go below freezing or above 84 degree Fahrenheit.
Harish Chandro Roy, 48, a farmer at Horidev village of Lalmonirhat sadar upazila said, he recieved 200 pieces of earthworms by the NGO, RDRS, to produce earthworm compost to use in the land for growing chemical free vegetables in June, 2011. “I produced 56 Kgs vermicompost fertilizer with those 200 pieces of earthworms and I cultivated bottle gourd, cucumber and coriander on 16 decimal lands beside our home using vermicompost fertilizer. I didn't use any chemical fertilizer, insecticides or medicines in the vegetable field but I got expected production,” he said. His 200 earthworms were increased at 7,000 pieces in a year. He sold 5000 pieces of earthworm at Tk 5 thousand to a local NGO. He produced 130 Kgs vermicompost fertilizer with 2,000 pices earthworm this year and he cultivated different vegetables on 35 decimal lands in the village using vermicompost, he said. “We are getting chemical free vegetables and I am also selling some vegetables in the local market after meeting up the needs of my family,” he added.
Krishno Kanto Roy, 55, a farmer at same village said that he received 430 pieces of earthworm by the same organization in August in this current year and he already produced 32 Kgs of vermicompost fertilizer and his earthworm quantity is being increased. “I cultivated beans and spinach on 10 decimals of land beside our home using vermicompost fertilizer. I am getting expected output without using chemical fertilizer and insecticides. I and my family members are eating chemical free vegetables and many local people are purchasing vegetables from me,” he said.
Babul Chandro Roy, a farmer at Panchogram village, said that he cultivated basil and red leafy Lettuce on 22 decimals of land beside his home using vermicompost fertilizer. His chemical free vegetables have a high demand in the village. Many local people come at his home to purchase chemical free vegetables. “I have already sold vegetables worth taka 6,000 after fulfilling my family's needs and I hope I will earn 5,000 taka more by selling vegetables,” he said.
Another chemical free vegetable grower, Shamol Chandro Barmon, 45, at Sindurmoti village said that he and some other villagers in the village are now getting chemical free vegetables. He cultivated red leafy lettuce, bottle gourd, carrot, snake guard and spinach on 30 decimals of land in his village. He doesn't go in the local market to sale his chemical vegetables as villagers come to his home to purchase. “Farmers can get bumper production of vegetables by only using vermicompost fertilizer without using chemical fertilizers and insecticides in their land. If the all the farmers in the village start growing chemical free vegetables, all the people will get chemical free foods that is very good for health and life,” he said.
According to Lalmonirhat AED official sources, at least 105 acres land were cultivated to grow chemical free vegetables using vermicompost fertilizer at twenty villages at two upazilas- Lalmonirhat Sadar and Aditmari in Lalmonirhat district. Chemical free vegetables growers at these villages are seen happy and smiling as vermicompost brings success to them. Chemical free vegetables cultivation is gaining popularity among the farmers day by day.
Agriculturists of RDRS explained that cement made ring-slabs are normally available in the locality, which is low-cost and can be used for a long time to culture vercomposting. This ring can be kept on bricks-floor, which should be under a thatched roof or tin-shed or plastic shed to avoid rainwater and sunlight. The base is lies in an east-west direction length wise to protect it from sunlight. The places of vermicomposting must be able to retain both moisture and air. The cement made ring requires a cover to conserve moisture and provide darkness for the worms, thus the entire place should not be too dry or too wet. As worms need to remain moist and also need air to live, adequate ventilation should be ensured. If the place is drying out, it need light watering to keep it moist. “The available bio-wastes are to be collected and to be heaped under sun about 7-10 days and be chopped. Then sprinkling partially decomposed cow dung to the heap is useful, where a thin layer of half decomposed cow dung (1-2 inches) need to be placed at the bottom. After that bio-wastes and partially decomposed cow dung layer at the ratio of 60:40 need to be placed in the container. Now, 100 earthworms should be released per sq. feet,” he said.
Any kind of biodegradable wastes like crop residues, leaf litter, partially decompose cow dung, weed biomass, vegetables waste, etc. can be used to prepare vermicompost. Generally one kilogram worms can eat half kilogram of kitchen garbage, farm yard manure and cowdung (partial decomposed) per day. After the first 5-7 days of culture, feed can be provided equivalent to their entire body weight. However, it is wise to wait to provide fresh food until the food given has been eaten-up fully by the worms. In order to add worms to the container, the fresh worms should be simply scattered over the top. The skin on the worm is sensitive to light and the worm will immediately work their way down the container to get away from the light. Most of the vegetable and fruit wastes, tea bags, egg shells, etc. can be used as feed to the worms, but garlic and onion skin create some problem. It is more manageable, when more leafy vegetables are added with less fruit and citrus, as citrus has a strong odor and the peelings seem to last a long time in the ontainer.
At the beginning of vermicomposting, it will take time to form bacteria, so it is needed to add small amount of kitchen waste and partially decomposed cow dung as a start-up. Kitchen waste and old moist cowdung can be increased gradually in the container. If the containers is kept in a dark place or the containers are covered, the worms will come to the surface to eat. If it is possible to follow the above system and maintain the technology in a proper way ensuring right environment, the worms will work to digest the kitchen wastes area. Within 2-3 months the worms will digest all the garbage. After this time, the rich and black coloured organic fertilizer will be formed in the container. It is assumed that the worm casting contain five times more nitrogen, seven times more phosphorus and eleven times more potassium than normal compost.
The vermicompost is rich in humic acids and can improve the structure of the soil. After it is fully prepared as compost with black colour and odorless form, it needs to be removed from the container as vermicompost. During removal of vermicompost from the container, it is important to take worm eggs, cocoons and small warms away from the removed vermicompost and returned to the container. After removal of vermicompost from container, the containers can be refilled with fresh layers. During extension of this activity at field level, earthworms multiply 200 to 300 times within two to three months, which can be used to prepare vermicompost further.
Habibur Rahman Habib, another agriculturist of RDRS in Lalmonirhat explained the comparative advantages of vermicompost is that it improves soil aeration, texture and tilths, which helps to reduce soil compaction, it improves water retention capacity of soil because of its high organic matter content and it improves nutrient status of soil, both macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients.
Another agriculturist of RDRS, Firoz Bulbul Sumon, explained about the challenges of vermicompost that the pit should be protected from direct sunlight and excess rainwater and the pit needs to be kept at moist level throughout the year. He also said about the nutrition value of vermicompost that the vermicompost carries Nitrogen 1.5 to 2.5 percent, Phosphorus 0.9 to 1.7 percent, Potash 0 .5 to 1.0 percent, Calcium 0.5 to 1.0 percent, Magnesium 0.2 to 0.3 percent and Sulphur 0.4 to 0.5 percent. Besides this, vermicompost contains other micro-nutrients with vitamins, enzymes and hormones, he said.
Agricultural Expert, Mamunur Rashid, said that at least 5% organic matter should be available in the cultivable land for its better productivity. But present study says that organic matter is decreasing and is now available in the soil less than one percent which is alarming for soil health. There is ample opportunity to increase organic matter by using vermicompost which provides all nutrients in readily available form and also enhances uptake of nutrients by plants. It provides excellent positive effect on overall plant growth encourages the growth of new shoots/leaves and improves the quality and shelf life of the produce.
Vermicompost also minimizes the incidence of pest and diseases. “RDRS extended the vermicompost technology in 250 farming families in its working area, where farm households are preparing vermicompost and are using it in their fields and getting benefits in terms of yield compared to other available compost in the market. It is also assured by concerned farmers that water holding capacity of soil also gets enhanced. A significant number of farmers are also selling vermicompost and are making profit to this end,” he said. T
The Manager of Develoment Projects of RDRS in Lalmonirhat, Ziaul Islam, said that under organic farming, RDRS extended the technology to farmers for wider dissemination of the technology, the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) of the government of Bangladesh should consider the technology as a national programme with NGO collaboration. Donors should also consider incorporating vermicompost as an allied intervention of agricultural food security and climate mitigation projects when launched in Bangladesh. However, the challenges are immense as to how to spread the technology among the farmers. Vermicompost technology is now used in five upazilas in Lalmonirhat district. If the technology spreads everywhere then it will bring profit for the farmers and we will get chemical free vegetables,” he said.
Cover Art by Ujjal Ghose
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