Paper Title
BIOREMEDIATION OF DOMESTIC ORGANIC WASTES USING EARTHWORM (EUDRILUS EUGENIA)
Author
Anthony O. Ugwoke & Mrs Rosemary Ugwuanyi
Section
Engineering, Health, Pure and Applied Sciences
Abstract

Vermiculture of wild earthworm, Eudrilus eugenia (African night crawler), and vermicomposting of organic kitchen wastes using both wild and cultured species of Eudrilus eugenia are investigated. Leached sandy soil is used in the vermicomposting to produce worm cast after which the nutrients are compared with the sandy soil. After two weeks of pre-composting, 4.7kg organic kitchen wastes are properly degraded (vermicomposted) by 0.12kg of earthworm for twelve (12) weeks. After eight (8) weeks of comparative vermicomposting between wild and cultured species of Eudrilus eugenia, it is observed that both showed equal vermicomposting ability. The worm cast produced shows 60% increase (enrichment) in nutrient when compared with the sandy soil used. The worm cast contains 20.3% nitrogen, 0.19% calcium, 5.0% potassium, 3.0% phosphorus and pH 7.0. The sandy soil contains 7.50% nitrogen, 0.03% calcium and 0.04% potassium with a pH 6.5. Eudrilus eugenia can be used to degrade organic kitchen waste and the worm cast produced can go a long way to increase soil fertility for maximum yield during agricultural activity.

Keywords
vermiculture, organic kitchen waste, worm cast, vermicomposting, earthworm

Introduction

Management of solid organic wastes has become one of the biggest problems developing nations are facing today. The rapid increase in the volume of waste is one aspect of the environmental crisis accompanying recent global development. Waste is a valuable material in a wrong place. Organic wastes comprise house hold food wastes, agricultural wastes, human wastes and animal wastes (Appelhof, 2007). As global population continues to increase, more organic wastes are bound to be produced causing increase in their environmental and agricultural challenges. These challenges are worse in developing countries due to poor waste management techniques. As a result, the waste turns out to cause health problems and the enormous nutrients in it get lost hence the need for efficient waste management technique.

The role of earthworms in the breakdown of organic debris on soil surface and soil turn over process was first highlighted by Darwin in 1881 (Kale and Bano, 2008; Berkelaar, 2009). Since then it has taken almost a century to appreciate their important contribution in curbing organic pollution and providing topsoil to impoverished lands. Worm or vermiculture is a useful technique for recycling kitchen and livestock wastes into a rich organic fertilizer, for producing high-protein feed for poultry and initiating a lucrative business, selling worms and worm castings for the small farm (Yarger, 2010). Vermiculture is an important bio-technique for converting the solid organic waste into compost enriched in nutrients (Ghosh, 2002; Asha-Aalok and Soni, 2008).

Vermicomposting, a bioremediation process in which worms are used to convert organic waste materials into humus-like material known as verimcompost, serves as a means of recovering organic waste nutrients through an efficient means producing organic fertilizer for agriculture purpose (Lazcano et al., 2008; Berkelaar, 2009; Beetz, 2010; Rhonda, 2011). The goal of vermicomposting is to process organic materials as quickly and efficiently as possible using the product of vermiculture which its goal is to continually increase the number of worms in order to obtain a sustainable harvest (Glenn, 2006; Asha-Aalok, & Soni, 2008).   

The African night crawler (ANC), known scientifically as Eudrilus eugenia, is considered as the most efficient epigeic or composting earthworm in the tropics (Guerrero, Illegas, & Guerrero, 1999). Even in 1981, Guestero et al. reported that the ANC was used for vermicomposting in the tropics. Kale and Bano in 1988 first used Eudrilus eugenia in converting organic wastes (agro waste and domestic refuse) into vermicompost (Kale and Bano, 2008). They noted that though as surface dwellers (epigeic), the worms are capable of working hard on the litter layer and can convert all the organic waste into manure, they are of no significant value in modifying the structure of the soil. The worm used in composting system feed most rapidly at temperatures of 15–25 °C (59-77 °F). They can survive at 10 °C (50 °F). Temperatures above 30 °C (86 °F) may harm them (Nancarrow and Hogan, 1998; Appelhof, 2007). Worms can survive in a pH range of 5 to 9 (Edwards, 1998). Most experts feel that the worms prefer a pH of 7 or slightly higher. Nova Scotia researchers found that the range of 7.5 to 8.0 was optimum (Ghosh, 2004). In general, the pH of worm beds tends to drop over time.

Vermicomposting has proven to have several benefits to the soil, plant growth, economy and environment (Appelhof, 2007). Vermicomposting facilities have already entered domestic and industrial marketing in countries like Canada, USA, Italy, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Japan (Asha-Aalok, & Soni, 2008). Now there is an all-round recognition that adoption and exploitation of vermiculture biotechnology, besides arresting ecological degradation, could go a long way towards meeting the nutrient needs of the agricultural sector in a big way. On another front, widespread use of vermicultural biotechnology could result in an increased employment opportunity and rapid development of the rural areas. The objectives of this study are: to carry out vermiculture of Eudrilus eugenia and evaluate the vermicomposting ability of cultured and wild Eudrilus eugenia.

 

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