VERMICULTURE AND VERMICOMPOSTING AS BIOTECHNOLOGY FOR CONVERSION OF ORGANIC WASTES INTO ANIMAL PROTEIN AND ORGANIC FERTILIZERPRIYA SANKAR CHAUDHURI
Verrniculture is the rearing of earthworms in a suitable substrate in order to raise their population and biomass. Vermicomposting is a kind of vermiculture, where organic wastes are used as food source for epigeic earthworms, with a main aim to produce vermicompost within a minimum time span. Epigeic earthworms which are successfully utilized for vermicomposting under Indian conditions are Perionyx excavatus, Eudrilus eugeniae and Eisenia fetida/ E. andrei. Some selective enciogeic species viz. Lampito mauritii, Polyplzeretima elongata, Drawidn nepalensis, Pont oscolex corethrurus etc. and anecic species like Metaphire Drawida willsi etc. can also be cultured under controlled conditions in India, using soil bedding with organic additives. Collective mass of casts (vermicasts) of these geophagous/phytogeophagous worms should not be confused to the vermicompost which is produced only by the epigeic earthworms. In fact, all vermicomposts are collective mass of vermicasts, but all vermicasts are not vermicompost. Vermicompost is finely divided homogeneous material rich in available plant nutrients, humic acid and plant growth regulators belonging to phytohormone group (produced by microorganism). It promotes growth of wide range of cereals, vegetables, ornamental plants etc. Worm tissue a product of vermiculture, is characterized by high protein content with most of the essential amino acids, predominance of polyunsaturated fatty acids with significant amount of linoleic and linolenic acid and act as an excellent food additive for fish, poultry pigs or domestic animals. Besides having powerful aphrodisiac effects, earthworm extracts possess spermatocidal, anti-hypertensive, anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, anti-blood coagulatory and fibrinolytic properties etc. Pharmacological use of earthworm is a promising line of future research.
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