Image credit: Cornell University
I seem to be on somewhat of a worm compost kick of late. I've written about worm composting becoming big business, and I followed this up with a look at how worm compost can help suppress plant diseases. When I wrote this second post, Allison Jack—one of the researchers mentioned in the article—contacted us to alert us to the wealth of resources available on vermicompost at the Cornell website. It's impressive stuff. Not only do we get to hear a little bit about just how and why the microorganisms in worm compost help fight plant diseases, we also learn about when they don't. When I wrote my original post about worm composting becoming big business, I reported that some vinyards were claiming a huge reduction in plant losses and disease problems after applications of worm compost to their soils. However, it looks like Allison Jack's research team are reporting a more limited—though no less beneficial—utility for worm compost as a disease fighting amendment—as the online summary of their vermicomposting research project explains:
"Our project team found limited benefits associated with direct soil applications of vermicompost. However, we did find that vermicompost can be an important component of potting media for producing vegetable transplants without synthetic fertilizers. Temperature is a significant factor in the performance of potting media containing vermicompost and we investigated optimal temperature ranges for a variety of vegetable crops. We found that vermicompost from a specific facility protects cucumbers from Pythium aphanidermatum, a seed-infecting pathogen. Through an ongoing project, we're investigating the microbial mechanisms that prevent infection from occurring to increase our understanding of the biological control of plant diseases."
Research of both on-farm field and greenhouse applications of vermicompost continues, but in the meantime you can check out the video below to get a better understanding of just why worm poop is such an amazing substance. Boy do I love compost...