(160) Are All Vermicomposts Created Equal?

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  • 1 Illinois State University, Department of Agriculture, Normal, IL, 61790-5020

The horticulture industry continues to show interest in using stabilized organic wastes as a component of container media. Vermicompost, also known as worm-worked waste or worm castings, is one of these materials of interest and can be produced from a number of organic wastes, including manure wastes. One issue that has not been addressed is the uniformity of vermicomposts produced from wastes of different sources. Are all vermicomposts created equal? The uniformity of vermicompost is important for growers to consider when using as a medium amendment. This research project investigated the physical properties of vermicompost 1) from different sources of wastes and 2) from a single waste source sequentially sampled over time. The first stage determined the physical properties of vermicompost from beef manure, hog manure, and peat-based media used by two earthworm growers. There were significant differences between the four vermicomposts in bulk density, air volume, percent air volume, percent volumetric moisture, total porosity, and water holding capacity. The second stage involved determining the physical characteristics of vermicompost produced from beef manure collected at the Illinois State University Research Farm from cattle receiving a consistent diet through the year. Manure was collected bimonthly. There was no difference in vermicompost bulk density among the samples. There were significant differences in air volume, percent air volume, percent volumetric moisture, total porosity, and water holding capacity. These changes in vermicompost physical characteristics must be quantified for growers to accurately predict performance as a growth medium amendment.

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