Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Vermiculture and Vermicomposting in the Philippines

Hi Guys..Let me introduce myself briefly first. My name is William Paul Palma and my colleagues in Davao call me Popoy. I finished B.S. Agri-Business major in Management at the Ateneo De Davao University. In 2007, I got interested with Vermiculture for the primary reason that worms are loyal hard workers. Their produce (manure) is always a perfect organic fertilizer. And they don't charge anything for their labor. That's amazing. So I begun to study the Industry comprehensively. In 2008, I started my own vermiculture in our small farm somewhere in Tanay, Rizal, Philippines. I got some snap shots while we were working in the farm which I will show you as we go along, so you could have a better visual understanding about Vermicuture, Vermicomposting and Organic Farming on a large and backyard scale. This is my true story "Vermiculture Made Easy" wpp

Lets start small. Those containers are full of worms which I grow in my condo unit in Cubao, Quezon City, Philippines. My place is so limited that I don't have a garden area except for a few flower pots. But this did not stop me from raising earthworms/vermiculture. If there's a will there's always a way. All the materials I use can be found in the garbage like the containers and all the food I collect for the worms are waste materials I got from my kitchen, storage area and paper scraps. In short I never spend a penny for doing this. I just turned trash into cash.You see worms eat microbes such as fungi and bacteria that eat almost all rotten things.wpp

Click picture to Zoom in

This are pictures showing the presence of a few healthy resident worms inside the container. I started growing them on my birthday, December 13, 2009. It's now January 06, 2010 when I got that snap shot and I can see some eggs around. That's wonderful!!! I don't think I can call this a backyard scale perhaps the best term is cabinet scale because I store the containers inside a shelf. This only show that in vermiculture, you can start big or small depending on your preference. All you have to do is to get some worms, the rest could be for free. If only all filipino families/residents are doing vermiculture at home, we can drastically reduce 30% of the garbage in our country. Not all countries are lucky enough to raise worm due to their unfavorable weather. In tropical counties like the Philippines earthworms (African Nightcrawlers) thrive excellently. wpp

Here are some facts and studies made about Earthworm. There are around 4000 species of Earthworm worldwide and 400 of them can be found in the Philippines. In 1982 Dr. Otto Graff introduced African Nightcrawler,( Eisenia euginae or Eudrilus eugeniae) in the Philippines which originated in West Africa. African Nightcrawler ( ANC ) are classified as annedila ( segmented worms ) and oligochaeta ( few bristles). They feed on litter at the surface without borrowing on the soil ( Epigeic ). Breathe through their skin. That's why any presence of oil in their feeding ground is discourage to keep the worms from choking to death when oil stick to their skin. Each worm have both male and female sex organ ( Hermaphroditic ) but they still have to mate with other worm at least once in their lifetime to start the reproduction process. Feed on microbes ( fungi and bacteria ) thought it looks like they are the one's eating the waste materials. ANC can lay 3-7 eggs a week that will hatch in 2 weeks and mature in 2 months, with a life span of 1-2 years in the wild and up to 10 years if properly nurtured and cared in a contained area. ANC can grow up to 12 inches in length and weigh up to 3 grams'. They feed on kitchen, agriculture, livestock, wet market waste, and almost anything that is biodegradable. They can also consume up to 100% of their body weight and excrete the same amount per day. With proper nutrition, Earthworm Manure (vermicast) is known to be the best odorless organic fertilizer in the world.It is the Super Soil of the Earth. In China the meaning of earthworm is "Angels of the Earth". They are cold blooded, thrive best in tropical areas like the Philippines. ANC will die of coldness at temperature below 12oC. ANC will live and reproduce at temperature between 24-28oC. ANC love wet area with a moisture of 40-80%. This kind of moisture is just enough water that the waste material can absurd without any water drops. Too much water may drown them. Less water may dry and kill them. There is no known symptoms of disease or sickness of Earthworms. wpp

These are some of our worm beds located in Tanay, Rizal. We started in January 2008 by placing two kilos of African Nightcrawlers(ANC) on each bed overflowing with food for the microbes because Earthworm eat the microbes. Then we harvest and collect the vermicast(earthworm manure) on each bed every 45 day. After harvest, we prepare another bed to distribute the worms into two separate beds because the worms have already increase in size and numbers. The same procedure will be repeated on the next harvesting period unless the worms are sold to the market.wpp

The size of the bed is 3 hollow blocks (CHB) by 6 CHB. I'm not so particular with the size and of the bed but rather the shape, location and materials available to be use in making a bed. I always consider the lowest possible cost and the safest area to place my vermiculture. I secured the top portion of the bed with black fishnet to prevent predators from eating the worms or destroying the bed like snake, frog, dog, chicken and even trespassers around the vicinity. Those green leaves on top are lettuce rejects which we harvested just recently. In vermiculture nothing goes to waste.wpp

We collect cow/carabao manure as one of our food recipes for the worms in the farm. Normally I mix cow/carabao manure with compose rice hay on a 1:1 ratio. This mixture is perfect because it contains all the micro-nutrients that will produce an excellent vermicompost. But there are a lot of mixtures that would also provide the same result. I just decided to choose this mixture because it is abundant in the area,and they are free for the taking. Oh I love the word FREE. It is best to get cow manure from grazing animals than those being raise in a herd/pen because owners usually treat them with chemicals that might affect the quality of our organic fertilizer/vermicompost.wpp

After collecting fresh cow/carabao manure in the field, we dry them for at least three days to make sure that it is completely cool otherwise it may harm the worms. Most animal manure are excreted in warm or hot temperature.wpp

Water is vital in the survival of Earthworms. Too much water will drown them while too dry will kill them. In a contained area like the picture shown makes the flow of water very unpredictable. During the summer heat, regular watering should be administered. However, during rainy season, the bed must be covered plastic sheild to prevent the bed from overflowing with rain water. If you decide to follow the kind of bed I did as shown above, just make sure you prepare your bed on a higher ground. I had a bad experience on this during the Typhoon Ondoy in October 2009 that hit our farm in Tanay, Rizal, Philippines. Ninety percent (90%) of our beds were washed away because I under estimated the amount of rain Typhoon Ondoy brought us. I thought that I have placed all the bed high enough against the flow of the heaviest rain I could think of, but I was wrong. Because of that tragic experience, I learned a lesson that I want to share with you, that not only should we take pride on the beauty of nature but also to pay respect and be more prepared for the power of destruction nature possess. Anyways, they said this kind of disaster never happened before. Now that it has already begun, we have to take more precautionary measures and put all this things into consideration. Truly indeed, in the field of Natural Agriculture, nature can be our best friend and may become our worst enemy.wpp

After harvesting this rice field, I store the hay and leave them to compost for 3-4 months. Then I mix them with cow/carabao manure at 1:1 ratio as my recipe which I prepare for the worms during feeding time. Normally, farmers simply burn the entire haystack after harvest. This is the fastest way for them to eradicate their garbage which we all know how much destruction it would contribute to our long deluded environment. In Vermiculture, we not only contribute to the reduce, reuse and recycle (Bokashi) of natural waste materials but also help in proper disposal of unwanted trash in a very environmentally and friendly manner. wpp

Sacks of collected vermicast (worm manure) are being stored for commercial sale. Some of them will go back to our farm to be used as fertilizer in the next planting sesson. wpp

A bunch of lettuce (mini romaine variety) ready for harvest. Here, we use 100% vermicast as our soil and fertilizer in preparing our seedbed. We buy the seeds from a commercial store to ensure best quality. Two weeks after seedlings are left to grow in a seedbed with proper care, they become ready for transfer to thier permanent plot until harvest. wpp

This is how we transfer the seedling into the plot. But before we can transfer, the plot must be cultivated well and mix with vermicast just enough to see that the soil becomes loosen and looks dark or loam. This procedure is repeated for the next four planting cycle then we resumes the same procedure after two years or when we notice that production is beginning to decline. However, continuous addition of fertilizer won’t harm the plant nor the soil since there is no overdose of vermicast. In fact we use 100% vermicast in our seedbed. No natural soil added. wpp

The left plot is an array of lettuce (mini romaine) about two weeks old while the other two plots are less than a week old. The size of each plot is 30 x 1.5 meters which could accommodate up to 1200 seedlings. Each plot can produce up to 50 kilos of good harvest.All unwanted stems and leaves have already been removed. Right now the price of lettuce in the commercial market is Php 380.00 to 420.00 kilos. The best time to harvest lettuce is within 20 to 30 days upon transfer of seedlings to the plot. The older they grow the bitter taste they become. If left to grow, older lettuce will begin to bare flowers which then produce seeds after 90 days upon transfer and start to wither after the flowers mature. wpp

Plants covered under a green house provides so many advantages specially in the control of sunlight, wind and rain. However, the best alternative to replace green house is through the use of mulching method. Mulching is by putting dried/compost legumes around each seedlings. It retains moisture, serve as shade, absorbs more water, help loosens the soil and also serves as fertilizer for the next planting period. wpp