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Vermiculture in Egypt:

Current Development and Future Potential

Vermiculture in Egypt: Current Development and Future Potential i

i

Vermiculture in Egypt: Current Development and Future Potential i

Vermiculture in Egypt:

Current Development and Future Potential

Written by:

Mahmoud Medany, Ph.D.

Environment Consultant Egypt

Edited by:

Elhadi Yahia, Ph.D.

Agro industry and infrastructure Officer Food and Agriculture Organizatioon (FAO/UN) Regional Office for North Africa and the Near East, Cairo, Egypt

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Regional Office for the Near East Cairo, Egypt

April, 2011

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this information product do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) concerning the legal or development status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. The mention of specific companies or products of manufacturers, whether or not these have been patented, does not imply that these have been endorsed or recommended by FAO in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned.

ISBN 978-92-5-106859-5

All rights reserved. FAO encourages reproduction and dissemination of material in this information product. Non-commercial uses will be authorized free of charge, upon request. Reproduction for resale or other commercial purposes, including educational purposes, may incur fees. Applications for permission to reproduce or disseminate FAO copyright materials, and all queries concerning rights and licences, should be addressed by e-mail to copyright@fao.org or to the Chief, Publishing Policy and Support Branch, Office of Knowledge Exchange, Research and Extension, FAO, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00153 Rome, Italy.

© FAO 2011

Table of contents

Table of contents

 

iv

List of Photos

vi

List of Figures

vi

List of tables

vii

Abbreviations

viii

Introduction

1

Executive Summary

2

  • 1. Introduction to the use of compost worms in Egypt

3

 

1.1.

Historical background

 

3

1.2.

Geographic distribution of earth worms

4

1.3.

Types of earthworms

 

6

1.4.

Vermicomposting species

6

1.5.

Native earthworm species in Egypt

7

1.6.

Vermiculture

and vermicomposting

8

  • 2. Trial of vermiculture and vermicomposting implementation in Egypt

10

 

2.1.

Principle of vermiculture and vermicomposting

10

2.1.1.

Bedding

 

10

2.1.2.

Worm Food

11

2.1.3.

Moisture

14

2.1.4.

Aeration

14

2.1.5.

Temperature control

 

15

2.2.

Methods of vermicomposting

16

2.2.1.

Pits below the ground

16

2.2.2.

Heaping above the ground

17

2.2.3.

Tanks above the ground

17

2.2.4.

Cement

 

18

2.2.5.

Commercial model

 

18

2.3.

The trial experience in Egypt

20

2.3. 1. Earthworm types

20

2.3.2.

Bedding

 

20

2.3.3.

Food

21

2.3.4.

Moisture

22

2.3.5.

Aeration

22

2.3.6.

Temperature

 

23

2.3.7

Harvesting

 

23

  • 3. Use of compost worms globally in countries of similar climate

26

3.1 Vermicomposting in Philippines

 

26

 

3.2 Vermicomposting in Cuba

28

3.3.

Vermicomposting in India

29

3.4.

Vermicompost „teas‟ in Ohio, USA

32

3.5.

Vermicomposting in United Kingdom

33

  • 4. Current on-farm and urban organic waste management practices in Egypt: gap

34

 

4.1.

On-farm organic waste

 

34

4.1.1.

Weak points in rice straw system in Egypt

35

4.2.

Urban wastes

35

4.2.1.

Overview of solid waste management problem in Egypt

35

4.2.2.

Main factors contributing to soil waste management problem

36

4.2.3.

Waste generation rates

 

37

4.2.4.

Major conventional solid waste systems are

39

iv

4.3.

Overview of

organic waste recovery options

40

4.3.1.

Feeding animals

40

4.3.2.

Compost

40

4.3.3 Landfill disposal or incineration

40

  • 5. Potential of vermiculture as a means to produce fertilizers in

45

5.1.

Fertilizer use in Egypt

45

5.2.

Fertilizer statistics

46

5.3.

Vermicomposting as fertilizers in

48

5.3.1.

Urban waste vermicomposting

49

5.3.2.

Vermicomposting of agricultural wastes

50

5.3.3.

Vermicomposts effect on plant growth

50

5.4.

Potentiality of vermicompost as a source of fertilizer in Egypt

51

  • 6. Current animal feed protein supplements production in Egypt and the potential to substitute

desiccated compost worms as an animal feed supplement or use of live worms in

 
 

aquaculture

53

6.1.

Animal and aquaculture feed

53

6.2.

Worm meal

54

6.3.

Earthworms, the sustainable aquaculture feed of the future

56

  • 7. Current on-farm and urban organic waste management practices and environmental effects

of those practices, e.g. carbon and methane

62

7.1.

Emissions from vermicompost

62

7.2 Total emissions from waste sector in Egypt

64

7.3.

Emissions from agricultural wastes

66

7.4.

Vermifilters in domestic wastewater treatment

69

  • 8. Survey of global vermiculture implementation projects focused on greenhouse gas

emission reductions

71

8.1.

Background

71

8.2.

Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) achievements in Egypt

73

8.3.

Egypt National Strategy on the CDM

74

8.4.

The national regulatory framework

75

  • 9. Analysis of the Egyptian context and applicability of vermiculture as a means of

greenhouse gas emission

76

9.1.

Profile of wastes in Egypt

76

9.1.1.

Municipal solid waste

76

9.1.2.

Agricultural wastes

77

9.2.

Mitigating greenhouse gas from the solid wastes

77

9.3.

Mitigating greenhouse gas from the agriculture wastes

79

References

80

Annex 1

85

85

v

List of Photos

Photo 1.1

Rich fertile soil of the Nile Delta enables wide variety of crops to be grown.

4

Photo 2.1

Open pit vermicomposting - Kirungakottai.

16

Photo 2.2

Open heap vermicomposting.

17

Photo 2.3

Commercial vermicompost operation at KCDC Bangalore, India

18

Photo 2.4

Cement ring vermicomposting

18

Photo 2.5

Commercial vermicomposting unit

19

Photo 2.6

Earthworms used in Egypt

20

Photo 2.7

Trial vermicompost set up at Dokki.

21

Photo 2.8

Mixture of food wastes and shredded plant material ready to be mixed in the rotating machine.

21

Photo 2.9

The locally manufactured shredding machine.

22

Photo 2.10

The shaded growing beds.

23

Photo 2.11

Harvesting of castings.

24

Photo 2.12

Harvested adult worms from the growing beds.

24

Photo 2.13

Couple of adult worms, with clear clitellum in both of them.

25

Photo 2.14

Worm eggs.

25

Photo 3.1

Earthworm plots showing plastic covers and support frame.

27

Photo 3.2

Windrows vermicomposting method: in Havana, Cuba .

29

Photo 3.3

Women self-help group involved in vermicomposting, to promote micro-enterprises and generate income.

30

List of Figures

Figure 2.1

Commercial model of vermicomposting developed by ICRISAT

19

Figure 5.1

Trends of production, imports and exports (1000 tonnes of nutrients) of fertilizers in Egypt

47

Figure 5.2

Consumption of nitrogen, phosphate, potassium and total fertilizers in Egypt.

48

Figure 7.1

Egypt‟s GHG emissions by gas type for the year 2000 in mega tones of carbon dioxide equivalent.

68

Figure 7.2

Egypt‟s GHG emissions by sector for the year 2000, in mega tones of carbon dioxide equivalent.

69

Figure 7.3

Layout of the vermifilter.

70

vi

List of tables

Table 1.1

Major families of Oligochaeta (order Opisthophora) and their

5

Table 2.1

regions of origin. Common bedding materials.

11

Table 2.2

Advantages and disadvantages of different types of feed.

12

Table 3.1

Summary for production of vermicompost at farm scale in Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) Islands, India.

31

Table 4.1

Municipal solid waste contents 2000-2005. 36

Table 4.2

Distribution of waste according to the sources.

37

Table 4.3

Distribution of wastes according to its sources and Governorate

38

Table 4.4

2007/2008 in tons. Egypt‟s Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan for the period

42

2007-2012.

Table 4.5

Solid waste accumulation in the Egyptian Governorates.

43

Table 4.6

Solid waste amount produced by governorates and the organic materials percentages For the year 2008.

44

Table 5.1

Physical and chemical analysis of various soil types.

46

Table 5.2

The main types of fertilizers used in Egypt. 47

Table 5.3

Potential nutrients that could be obtained from urban and

Average values (±SD) of physico-chemical parameters of water,

52

Table 6.1

agriculture wastes in Egypt. Chemical composition % of various worm meal (in dry matter).

55

Table 6.2

Essential amino acid profile of vermi meals (g/16 gN).

55

Table 6.3

Macro and trace mineral contents of freeze dried vermi meal

55

Table 6.4

(Eudrilus eugeniae). Different nutrient concentration in manure and fertilizer applied

58

Table 6.5

(average value of triplicate sample analyzed).

primary productivity of phytoplankton and final body weights and fish production of Cyprinus carpio (Ham.) in various treatments.

59

Table 6.6

Composition (% dry matter) of tested proteins sources or

60

Table 6.7

supplements for fish feeds. Amino acid (g/100g protein) profiles of tested protein sources or supplement as compared to fish meal (FM).

61

Table 7.1

Summary of greenhouse gas emissions for Egypt, 2000. 65

Table 7.2

Egypt‟s greenhouse gas emissions by gas type for the year 2000.

67

Table 7.3

Egypt‟s greenhouse gas

emissions by sector for the year 2000.

68

Table 9.1

Summary of identified mitigation measures for solid wastes.

78

vii

Abbreviations

AF ARC ARE AS CA CDM CER CH CO CO CO 2 e COPx DAP EEAA EU FAO GHG GIS GTZ

4

2

GWP ha HFC ICRISAT IPCC JA MA ME MSW MSW Mt N 2 O NA NH 3 NOx NSS OC PFC's SA

Africa Agricultural Research Center of Egypt Arab Republic of Egypt Asia Central America Clean Development Mechanism Certified Emissions Reductions Methane Carbon monoxide Carbon dioxide Equivalent carbon dioxide Conference of parties number x Diammonium phosphate Egypt Environmental Affairs Agency Europe Food and Agriculture Organization Greenhouse gas Geographic Information System German Technical Cooperation Agency

Global Warming Potential Hectare, 10 thousand square meters Hydrofluorocarbon International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change Japan Madagascar Mediteranean Municipal Solid Waste Municipal Solid Waste Million tons Nitrous oxide North America Ammonia Nitrogen oxides National Strategy Studies Oceania Perfluorocarbons South America

viii

SF 6

Sulphur hexafluoride

SWM

Solid Waste Management

Tg

Teragrams

UNCED

United Nations Conference on Environment and Development

UNDP

United Nations Development Program

UNFCCC

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

USA

The United States of America

USA

Unites States of America

VF

Vermifiltration: filtration utilizing earth worms

VOC

Volatile Organic Compound

VSS

Volatile suspendedsolids

WWTP

Wastewater treatment plant

ix

Introduction

The total amount of solid waste generated yearly in Egypt is about 17 million tons from municipal sources, 6 million tons from industrial sources and 30 million tons from agricultural sources. Approximately 8% of municipal solid waste is composted, 2% recycled, 2% land-filled and 88% disposed of in uncontrolled dumpsites. Agricultural wastes either burned in the fields or used in the production of organic fertilizers, animal fodder and food or energy production. National efforts are being exerted to minimize burning the agricultural wastes. There is a great opportunity for maximizing the economical benefits of organic wastes by utilizing the earth worms as "biological machines" utilizing the waste for valuable commodities. Assessment of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions for Egypt revealed that the total emissions in the year 2000 were about 193 MtCO 2 e, compared to about 117 MtCO 2 e in 1990, representing an average increase of 5.1% annually. Estimated total greenhouse gas emissions in 2008 are about 288 MtCO 2 e. Although waste sector produces the least quantity of greenhouse gases in Egypt, without the organic residues burned from the agriculture sector, which when added together can be in a higher rank. Converting organic wastes, whether municipal or agricultural, into vermicompost can substantially reduce the greenhouse gas emission that could be paid back through the clean development mechanism (CDM) of Kyoto Protocol. From another perspective, proper handling of wastes, especially organic, in mega cities such as Cairo, will reduce the environmental impact on both public and government. Any effort lead to cleaner streets is highly appreciated. The availability of organic compost from various sources will have a direct positive impact on agriculture in Egypt, as most soils of modern agriculture have poor organic matter contents. The benefits of converting organic wastes into compost to be added to the soil apply also to similar countries in the Middle East and North Africa. As general information regarding the utilization of earthworm in composting:

  • - One thousand adult worms weigh approximately one kilogram.

  • - One kilogram of adults can convert up to 5 kilograms of waste per day.

  • - Approximately ten kilograms of adults can convert one ton waste per month.

  • - Two thousand adults can be accommodated in one square meter.

  • - One thousand earthworms and their descendants, under ideal conditions, could convert approximately one ton of organic waste into high yield fertilizer in one year. The purpose of this work is to investigating current development of vermiculture under the Egyptian conditions, and to discuss its potential as an effective means of converting the carbon and nitrogen in domestic and agricultural organic wastes into bio-available nutrients for food production, and the potential of vermiculture as means of reduction the greenhouse gas emissions that have negative impacts on the environment.

1

Executive Summary

Vermiculture in Egypt dates since Cleopatra. However, the Green Revolution, with its dependence on fossil fuelled large scale machinery and operations, together with the damming of the Nile, has in recent times all but removed the environment in which compost worms, most commonly Eisenia Foetida, can thrive.

The total quantity of solid wastes generated in Egypt is 118.6 million tons/year in 2007/2008, including municipal solid waste (garbage) and agricultural wastes. Household waste constitutes about 60% of the total municipal waste quantities, with the remaining 40% being generated by commercial establishments, service institutions, streets and gardens, hotels and other entertainment sector entities. Per capita generation rates in Egyptian cities, villages and towns vary from lower than 0.3 kg for low socio-economic groups and rural areas, to more than 1 kg for higher living standards in urban centers. On a nationwide average, the composition is about 50-60% food wastes, 10-20% paper, and 1-7% each of metals, cloth, glass, and plastics, and the remainder is basically inorganic matter and others.

Currently, solid waste quantities handled by waste management systems are estimated at about 40,000 tons per day, with 30,000 tons per day being produced in cities, and the rest generated from the pre-urban and rural areas. Final destinations of municipal solid waste entail about 8% of the waste being composted, 2% recycled, 2% landfilled, and 88% dumped in uncontrolled open dumps.

The organic wastes in cities can be as large as 10-15 thousand tons per day. After the swine flu and the government decision to get rid of all swine used to live on the organic wastes in the garbage collection sites near the cities, earth worms could be the alternate biological machines that could handle the wastes with greater revenues and cleaner production. There is a great opportunity for all municipal waste systems to adapt the vermicompost in their operation.

Egypt produces around 25 to 30 Mt of agriculture waste annually (around 66,000 tons per day). Some of this waste is used in the production of organic fertilizers, animal fodder, food production, energy production, or other useful purposes. Vermiculture is also a valuable system for converting most of the organic waste into vermicompost. With rural awareness and training, vermicompost could be produced in all villages.

The target groups of this book are all growers, including organic agriculture growers, as well as all organic waste producers from as small scale as households to the large scale urban solid waste operations. The very rich and valuable organic vermicompost produce will assist in enriching the soil, especially sandy and newly reclaimed soil, with organic matter and fertilizers in the form of proteins, enzymes, hormones, humus substances, vitamins, sugars, and synergistic compounds, which makes it as productive as good soil.

2

1. Introduction to the use of compost worms in Egypt

1.1. Historical background

The importance of earthworms is not a very modern phenomenon. Earthworms have been on the Earth for over 20 million years. In this time they have faithfully done their part to keep the cycle of life continuously moving. Their purpose is simple but very

important. They are nature‟s way of recycling organic nutrients from dead tissues

back to living organisms. Many have recognized the value of these worms. Ancient civilizations, including Greece and Egypt valued the role earthworms played in soil. The ancient Egyptians were the first to recognize the beneficial status of the

earthworm. The Egyptian Pharaoh, Cleopatra (69 – 30 B.C.) said, “Earthworms are sacred.” She recognized the important role the worms played in fertilizing the Nile Valley croplands after annual floods. Removal of earthworms from Egypt was punishable by death. Egyptian farmers were not allowed to even touch an earthworm for fear of offending the God of fertility. The Ancient Greeks considered the earthworm to have an important role in improving the quality of the soil. The Greek philosopher Aristotle (384 – 322 B.C.) referred to worms as “the intestines of the earth”.

Jerry Minnich, in The Earthworm Book (Rodale, 1977), provides a historical overview which indicates that at the end of the last Ice Age, some 10,000 years ago, earthworm populations had been decimated in many regions by glaciers and other adverse climatic conditions. Many surviving species were neither productive nor prolific. In places where active species and suitable environments were found, such as the Nile River Valley, earthworms played a significant role in agricultural sustainability. While the Nile‟s long-term fertility is well known and attributed to rich alluvial deposits brought by annual floods, these materials were mixed and stabilized by valley-dwelling earthworms. In 1949, the USDA estimated that earthworms contributed approximately 120 tons of their castings per year to each acre of the Nile floodplain (Tilth, 1982).

Egypt has historically had some of the most productive and fertile land in the world. The Nile River not only provides water critical for agriculture, but in times past, the annual flooding of the Nile deposited nutrient-rich soil onto the land. In recent years, the Aswan High Dam has virtually eliminated the annual flood which has resulted in a loss of the beneficial soil deposits leading to a need for organic material on lands used for agricultural production in Egypt.

Charles Darwin (1809 1882) studied earthworms for more than forty years and devoted an entire book (The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms) to the earthworm. Darwin said, “it may be doubted that there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world as have these lowly organized creatures”.

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For three millennia (3,000 years), the thriving civilization of ancient Egypt was strikingly successful for two reasons: 1) The Nile River, which brought abundant water to the otherwise parched lands of the region; and 2) the billions of earthworms that converted the annual deposit of silt and organic matter, brought down by the annual floods into the richest food-producing soil anywhere. Those Egyptian worms are thought to be the founding stock of the night crawlers that slowly spread throughout Europe and eventually came to the Western Hemisphere with the early settlers (Burton and Burton, 2002).

For three millennia (3,000 years), the thriving civilization of ancient Egypt was strikingly successful for two

Photo 1.1.

 

Rich fertile soil

of

the

Nile

Delta

enables wide variety

of crops

to

be

grown.

Source: Author

1.2. Geographic distribution of earth worms

The diversity of earthworm community is influenced by the characteristics of soil, climate and organic resources of the locality as well as history of land use. The species poor communities are characterized by extreme soil conditions such as low pH, poor fertility, low fertility litter or a high degree of soil disturbance. The most significant soil factors affecting the distribution of different species of earthworm are the C/N ratio, pH and contents of Al, Ca, Mg, organic matter, silt and coarse sand (Ghafoor et al., 2008).

Europe is the original home of some of most common and productive earthworm

species: Lumbricus rubellus (the red worm or red wiggler); Eisenia foetida (the brandling, manure worm or tiger worm); Lumbricus terrestris (the common night crawler); and Allolobophora ealignosa (the field worm). The first two species are the major „„earthworms of commerce, whose ideal living environments are manure or

compost heaps. The night crawler and field worms, on the other hand, both prefer

grasslands and woodland margins. The main types in Egypt are Alma nilotico and A. stuhlmannt. Details of distribution of types will be discussed later in this chapter. Over 3500 earthworm species have been described worldwide, and it is estimated that further surveys will reveal this number to be much larger. Distinct taxonomic groups of earthworms have arisen on every continent except Antarctica, and, through human transport, some groups have been distributed worldwide (Hendrix and Bohlen, 2002). Earthworms are classified within the phylum Annelida, class Clitellata, subclass Oligochaeta, order Opisthophora. There are 16 families worldwide (Table 1.1). Six of

4

these families (cohort Aquamegadrili plus suborder Alluroidina) comprise aquatic or semiaquatic worms, whereas the other 10 (cohort Terrimegadrili) consist of the terrestrial forms commonly known as earthworms. Two families (Lutodrilidae and Komarekionidae, both monospecific) and genera from three or four others (Sparganophilidae, Lumbricidae, Megascolecidae, and possibly Ocnerodrilidae) are Nearctic.

No native earthworms have been reported from Canada east of the Pacific Northwest or from Alaska or Hawaii, although exotic species now occur in all of these regions. Native earthworms in the families Ocnerodrilidae, Glossoscolecidae, and Megascolecidae occur in Mexico and the Caribbean islands.

Table 1.1. Major families of Oligochaeta (order Opisthophora) and their regions of origin.

Family

Region of origin

Limicolous or aquatic

 

Alluroididae

AF, SA

Syngenodrilidae

AF

Sparganophilidae

NA, EU

Biwadrilidae

JA

Almidae

EU, AF, SA, AS

Lutodrilidae

NA

Terrestrial

Ocnerodrilidae

SA, CA, AF, AS, MA

Eudrilidae

AF

Kynotidae

MA

Komarekionidae

NA

Ailoscolecidae

EU

Microchaetidae

AF

Hormogastridae

ME

Glossoscolecidae

SA, CA

Lumbricidae

NA, EU

Megascolecidae

NA, CA, SA, OC, AS, AF, MA

Note: AF = Africa, AS = Asia, CA = Central America, EU = Europe, JA = Japan, MA = Madagascar, ME = Mediteranean, NA = North America, OC = Oceania, SA = South America

Source: Hendrix and Bohlen (2002)

5

1.3.

Types of earthworms

Earthworm is a common polyphagous annelid and plays an important role in the soil ecosystem. Although all species of earthworms contribute to the breakdown of plant-derived organic matter, they differ in the ways by which they degrade organic matter. According to their habitat types and ecological functions, earthworms can be divided into three types: the anecic, the endogeic, and the epigeic.

Anecic (Greek for “out of the earth”) – these are burrowing worms that come to the surface at night to drag food down into their permanent burrows deep within the mineral layers of the soil. Example: the Canadian Night crawler (Munroe , 2007). These species are of primary importance in pedogenesis.

Endogeic (Greek for “within the earth”) – these are also burrowing worms but their burrows are typically more shallow. Such species are limited mainly to the plant litter layer on the soil surface, composed of decaying organic matter or wood, and seldom penetrate soil more than superficially. The main role of these species seems to be shredding of the organic matter into fine particles, which facilitates

increased microbial activity.

Epigeic (Greek for “upon the earth”), they are limited to living in organic materials and cannot survive long in soil; these species are commonly used in vermiculture and vermicomposting. All earthworm species depend on consuming organic matter in some form, and they play an important role, mainly by promoting microbial activity in various stages of organic matter decomposition, which

eventually includes humification into complex and stable amorphous colloids

containing phenolic materials. An example is Eisenia fetida, commonly known as (partial list only): the “compost worm”, “manure worm”, “redworm”, and “red wiggler”. This extremely tough and adaptable worm is indigenous to most parts of the world.

  • 1.4. Vermicomposting species

To consider a species to be suitable for use in vermicomposting, it should possess certain specific biological and ecological characteristics, i.e., an ability for colonizing organic wastes naturally; high rates of organic matter consumption, digestion and assimilation of organic matter, able to tolerate a wide range of environmental factors; have high reproduction rate, producing large numbers of cocoons that should not have a long hatching time, and their growth and maturation rates from hatchling to adult individual should be rapid. It should be strong, resistant and survive handling. Not too many species of earth worm have all these characteristics. Those species used in vermiculture around the world are mainly “litter” species that include, but are not limited to: Eisenia fetida “Tiger Worm”, as mentioned earlier, and its sibling species E. andrei “Red Tiger Worm”; Perionyx excavatus “Indian Blue”; Eudrilus eugeniae “African Nightcrawler”; Amynthas corticis) and A. gracilis “Pheretimas” (formerly known a P. hawayana); Eisenia hortensis and Eisenia veneta “European Nightcrawlers”; Lampito mauritii “Mauritius Worm”.

6

Additional species used in Australia are Anisochaeta buckerfieldi, Anisochaeta spp. and Dichogaster spp. Other worm species involved in vermicomposting are of Family Enchytraeidae (enchytraeid or pot worms), microdriles (small „aquatic‟ worms), free-living nematodes (roundworms) (Blakemore , 2000).

In recent years, interactions of earthworms with microorganisms in degrading organic matter have been used commercially in systems designed to dispose agricultural and urban organic wastes and convert these materials into valuable soil amendments for crop production. Commercial enterprises processing wastes in this way are expanding worldwide and diverting organic wastes from more expensive and environmentally harmful ways of disposal, such as incinerators and landfills (Padmavathiamma et al.,

2008).

1.5. Native earthworm species in Egypt

The Nile basin is subdivided into three Obligataete subregions: the main (Lower) Nile, from the Delta to Kartoum (Characterized by Alma nilotico and A. stuhlmannt), the Upper Nile from Kartoum to Centeral and East Africa (Characterized by A. emini), and the Ethiopian subregion (Characterized by Eudrilus). In Egypt Species and locations newly investigated include Allolboplora (Aporrectodea) caliginosa, associated with the aquatic Eiseniella tetraedra in spring near the St. Catherine monastery in South Sinai, and Allolboplora (Aporrectodea) rosea (Eisenia rosea) on the slops of the Mountain of Moses, and near Monastery. Allolobophoru jassyensis is found in the Delta and Eiseniella tetraedra in Sinai (Ghabbour, 2009).

The scarcity of earthworm in Egyptian soils is mostly attributable to the aridity of the climate and to the fact that the majority of cultivated land is under the plough (arable). In an arid, almost rainless country like Egypt, earth worm, which are highly sensitive

to water loss, cannot move easily from a less to a more favorable place in or on dry ground. Earthworms are scarce in Egypt because of acreage of favorable soils (e.g. orchards and forest) is very small. Moreover, in other places (e.g. arable land soils) the favorable conditions are transient. These favorable conditions are:

  • 1. An undisturbed soil.

  • 2. A regular and adequate water supply.

  • 3. A fine soil texture (to raise the availability of water).

  • 4. A regular and adequate supply of organic matter.

There are several well known species in Egypt, such as Aporrectodea caliginoosa that can survive in sand dunes soils but numbers decreased with increased proportions of gravel and sand. Quantitative sampling for earthworms by hand-sorting was carried out in fourteen localities in Beheira Governorate and adjacent areas by El-Duweini and Ghabbour (1965). They collected five different species: 1- Gordiodrilus sp., 2- Pheretima califonica ; 3-Pheretima Elongate; 4- Allolbophora caliginoosa f. trapezoids and 5- Eisenia rosea f. Biomastoides. A number of juvenile lumbrivids found in cattle

7

enclosure could not be ascribed with certainty to either of the latter two species and are therefore recorded separately.

1.6. Vermiculture and vermicomposting

Vermiculture is the process of breeding worms. Growers usually pay for their feedstock, and the worm castings are often considered a waste product. Vermiculture is the culture of earthworms. The goal is to continually increase the number of worms in order to obtain a sustainable harvest. The worms are either used to expand a vermicomposting operation or sold to customers who use them for the same or other purposes.

Vermicomposting, is a simple biotechnological process of composting, "Vermi" is a Latin word meaning "worm" and thus, vermicomposting is composting with the aid of worms, in which certain species of earthworms are used to enhance the process of waste conversion and produce a better end product. Vermicomposting differs from composting in several ways. It is a mesophilic process, utilizing microorganisms and earthworms that are active at 1032°C (not ambient temperature but temperature within the pile of moist organic material). The process is faster than composting; because the material passes through the earthworm gut, a significant but not yet fully understood transformation takes place, whereby the resulting earthworm castings (worm manure) are rich in microbial activity and plant growth regulators, and fortified with pest repellence attributes as well (Munroe, 2007). In short, earthworms, through a type of biological alchemy, are capable of transforming garbage into valuable material (Nagavallemma et al., 2004). The ultimate goal of vermicomposting is to produce vermicompost as quickly and efficiently as possible. If the goal is to produce vermicompost, maximum worm population density needs to be maintained all of the time. If the goal is to produce worms, population density needs to be kept low enough that reproductive rates are optimized. It is known that many extracellular enzymes can become bound to humic matter during a composting or a vermicomposting process, regardless of the type of organic matter used, but knowledge of the chemical and biochemical properties of such extracellular enzymes is very scanty (Benítez et al., 2000).

Vermitechnology has been promoted as an eco-biotechnological tool to manage organic wastes generated from different sources (Suthar, 2010).

Vermicast, similarly known as worm castings, worm humus or worm manure, is the end-product of the breakdown of organic matter by a species of earthworm. Vermicast is very important to the fertility of the soil. The castings contain high amounts of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium. Castings contain: 5 times the available nitrogen, 7 times the available potash, and 1½ times more calcium than found in good topsoil. It has excellent aeration, porosity, structure, drainage, and moisture-holding capacity. Vermicast can hold close to nine times their weight in water. It is a very good fertilizer, growth promoter and helps inducing flowering and fruit-bearing in higher plants. This can even help plants to get rid of pests and diseases (Venkatesh and Eevera, 2008 ).

8

1.7. Compost vs. vermicompost

Composting, generally defined as the biological aerobic transformation of an organic byproduct into a different organic product that can be added to the soil without detrimental effects on crop growth, has been indicated as the most adequate method for pre-treating and managing organic wastes. In the process of composting, organic wastes are recycled into stabilized products that can be applied to the soil as an odorless and relatively dry source of organic matter, which would respond more efficiently and safely than the fresh material to soil organic fertility requirements. The conventional and most traditional method of composting consists of an accelerated biooxydation of the organic matter as it passes through a thermophilic stage (45° to 65°C) where microorganisms liberate heat, carbon dioxide and water.

Vermicomposts contain nutrients in forms that are readily taken up by the plants such as nitrates, exchangeable phosphorus, and soluble potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Vermicomposts should have a great potential in the horticultural and agricultural industries as media for plant growth. Vermicomposts, whether used as soil additives or as components of horticultural media, improved seed germination and enhanced rates of seedling growth and development.

However, composting and vermicomposting are quite distinct processes, particularly concerning the optimum temperatures for each process and the types of microbial communities that predominate during active processing (i.e. thermophilic bacteria in composting, mesophilic bacteria and fungi in vermicomposting). The wastes processed by the two systems are also quite different. Vermicomposts have a much finer structure than composts and contain nutrients in forms that are readily available for plant uptake. There have also been reports of production of plant growth regulators in the vermicomposts. Therefore, it was hypothesized that there should be considerable differences in the performances and effects of composts and vermicomposts on plant growth when used as soil amendments or as components of horticultural plant growth media (Atiyeh et al., 2000).

9

2. Trial of vermiculture and vermicomposting implementation in Egypt

The historical background, geographic distribution of earth worms, types of earthworms, native earthworm species, formal definitions of vermiculture and vermicomposting, and a comparison between compost and vermicompost were introduced in the previous chapter. This chapter deals with the physical requirements of vermiculture and vermicompost, and ends by the implementation trial of both vermiculture and vermicompost in Egypt, including all details of this trial.

2.1. Principle of vermiculture and vermicomposting

Compost worms need five basic principles: a hospitable living environment, usually

called “bedding”, a food source, adequate moisture (greater than 50% water content

by weight), adequate aeration, and protection from temperature extremes. These five essentials are discussed below in more details according to Munroe (2007).

2.1.1. Bedding

Bedding is any material that provides the worms with a relatively stable habitat. This habitat must have the following characteristics:

  • - High absorbency. Worms breathe through their skins and therefore must have a moist environment in which to live. If a worm‟s skin dries out, it dies. The bedding must be able to absorb and retain water fairly well if the worms are to thrive.

  • - Good bulking potential. If the material is too dense to begin with, or packs too tightly, then the flow of air is reduced or eliminated. Worms require oxygen to live, just as we do. Different materials affect the overall porosity of the bedding through a variety of factors, including the range of particle size and shape, the texture, and the strength and rigidity of its structure.

  • - Low protein and/or nitrogen content (high carbon: nitrogen ratio). Although the worms do consume their bedding as it breaks down, it is very important that this be a slow process. High protein/nitrogen levels can result in rapid degradation and its associated heating, creating inhospitable, often fatal, conditions. Heating can occur safely in the food layers of the vermiculture or vermicomposting system, but not in the bedding.

Some materials make good beddings all by themselves, while others lack one or more of the above characteristics and need to be used in various combinations. Table 2.1 provides a list of some of the most commonly used beddings and provides some input

regarding each material‟s absorbency, bulking potential, and carbon to nitrogen (C:N)

ratios.

10

Table 2.1. Common Bedding Materials:

Bedding Material

Absorbency

Bulking Pot.

C:N Ratio

Horse Manure

Medium-Good

Good

22

- 56

Peat Moss

Good

Medium

58

Corn Silage

Medium-Good

Medium

38

- 43

 

Poor

Medium

15

- 32

Hay general Straw general

Poor

Medium-Good

48

- 150

Straw oat

Poor

Medium

48

- 98

Straw wheat

Poor

Medium-Good

100

- 150

Paper from municipal waste stream

Medium-Good

Medium

127

- 178

Newspaper

Good

Medium

170

Bark hardwoods

Poor

Good

116

- 436

Bark -- softwoods

Poor

Good

131

- 1285

Corrugated cardboard

Good

Medium

563

Lumber mill waste -- chipped

Poor

Good

170

Paper fiber sludge

Medium-Good

Medium

250

Paper mill sludge

Good

Medium

54

Sawdust

Poor-Medium

Poor-Medium

142

- 750

Shrub trimmings

Poor

Good

53

Hardwood chips, shavings

Poor

Good

451

- 819

Softwood chips, shavings

Poor

Good

212

- 1313

Leaves (dry, loose)

Poor-Medium

Poor-Medium

40

- 80

Corn stalks

Poor

Good

60

- 73

Corn cobs

Poor-Medium

Good

56

- 123

Source: Munroe (2007).

Researchers in Canada made an experiment to determine the feasibility of mixing municipally generated fiber wastes (e.g., non-recyclable paper, corrugated cardboard, and boxboard) with farm wastes (animal manures) and processing the mixture with worms (large-scale vermiculture) to produce a commercially viable compost product for farms. The results show that the greatest worm population increases were in the pure shredded cardboard or in the high-fiber-content cow-manure mixes, but that biomass changes were more positive in the chicken-manure series (GEORG, 2004).

2.1.2. Worm Food

Compost worms are big eaters. Under ideal conditions, they are able to consume more than their body weight each day, although the general rule-of-thumb is ½ of their body weight per day. Table 2.2 summarizes the most important attributes of some worm food that could be used in an on-farm vermicomposting or vermiculture operation.

11

Table 2.2. Advantages and disadvantages of different types of feed.

Food

Advantages

Disadvantages

 

Notes

Cattle manure

Good nutrition; natural food, therefore little adaptation required.

Weed seeds make pre-composting necessary.

All manures are partially decomposed and thus ready for consumption by worms.

Poultry

High N content results

High protein levels

 

manure

in good nutrition and a high value product.

can be dangerous to worms, so must be used in small

Some books suggest that poultry manure is not suitable for worms because

quantities; major

it is so “hot”; however,

 

adaptation required for worms not used to this feedstock. May be precomposted but not necessary if used cautiously.

research in has shown that worms can adapt if initial proportion of PM to bedding is 10% by volume or less.

Sheep/Goat

Good nutrition.

Require

 

manure

precomposting (weed seeds); small particle size can lead to packing, necessitating extra bulking material.

With right additives to increase C:N ratio, these manures are also good beddings

 

Rabbit manure

N content second only to poultry manure, therefore good nutrition; contains very good mix of vitamins & minerals; ideal earthworm feed.

Must be leached prior to use because of high urine content; can overheat if quantities too large; availability usually not good

Many U.S. rabbit growers place earthworm beds under their rabbit hutches to catch the pellets as they drop through the wire mesh cage floors.

Fresh food

Excellent nutrition,

Extremely variable

Some

food

wastes

are

scraps (e.g.,

good moisture content,

(depending on

much

better

than

others:

peels, other

possibility of revenues

source); high N can

coffee

grounds

are

food prep

from waste tipping

result in heating; meat

excellent, as they are high

waste,

fees.

& high-fat wastes can

in N, not greasy or smelly,

leftovers,

create anaerobic

and

are

attractive

to

commercial

conditions and odors,

worms; alternatively, root

food

attract pests, so

vegetables

(e.g.,

potato

processing

should not be

culls)

resist

degradation

wastes)

included without

and require a long time to

precomposting.

be consumed.

 

Precomposted

food wastes

Good nutrition; partial decomposition makes

Nutrition less than with fresh food

Vermicomposting can

speed

the

curing

process

digestion by worms

wastes.

for

conventional

easier and faster; can include meat and other

composting operations while increasing value of

greasy wastes; less tendency to overheat.

end product.

 

12

Food

Advantages

Disadvantages

Notes

Bio-solids

Excellent nutrition

Heavy metal and/or

Vermitech Pty Ltd. in

(human

and excellent product;

chemical

Australia has been very

waste)

can be activated or non-activated sludge, septic sludge; possibility of waste management revenues

contamination (if from municipal sources); odor during application to beds (worms control fairly quickly); possibility of pathogen survival if process not complete

successful with this process, but they use automated systems; EPA- funded tests in Florida demonstrated that worms destroy human pathogens as well as does thermophillic composting (Eastman et al., 2001).

Seaweed

Good nutrition; results in excellent product, high in micronutrients and beneficial microbes

Salt must be rinsed off, as it is detrimental to worms; availability varies by region

Beef farmer in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada, are producing certified organic vermicompost from cattle manure, bark, and seaweed

Legume hays

Higher N content makes these good feed as well as reasonable bedding.

Moisture levels not as high as other feeds, requires more input and monitoring

Probably best to mix this feed with others, such as manures

Grains (e.g.,

Excellent, balanced

Higher value than

Danger: Worms consume

feed mixtures

most feeds, therefore

grains but cannot digest

for

nutrition, easy to

expensive to use; low

larger, tougher kernels;

animals, such

handle, no odor, can

moisture content;

these are passed in castings

as chicken

use organic grains for

some larger seeds

and build up in bedding,

mash)

certified organic product.

hard to digest and slow to break down

resulting in sudden overheating.

Corrugated

Excellent nutrition

   

cardboard

(due to high protein

(including

glue used to hold

Must be shredded

Some worm growers claim

Waxed)

layers together); worms like this material; possible revenue source from WM fees

(waxed variety) and/or soaked (non- waxed) prior to feeding

that corrugated cardboard stimulates worm reproduction

Fish, poultry

High N content

 

Composting of offal, blood

offal; blood

provides good

Must be

wastes, etc. is difficult and

wastes; animal

nutrition; opportunity

precomposted until

produces strong odors.

mortalities

to turn problematic wastes into high- quality product

past Thermophillic stage

Should only be done with in- vessel systems; much bulking required.

Source: Munroe (2007).

13

2.1.3.

Moisture

The bedding used must be able to hold sufficient moisture if the worms are to have a livable environment. Earthworms do not have specialized breathing devices. They breathe through their skin, which needs to remain moist to facilitate respiration. Like their aquatic ancestors, earthworms can live for months completely submerged in water, and they will die if they dry out (Sherman, 2003). The ideal moisture-content range for materials in conventional composting systems is 45-60%. In contrast, the ideal moisture-content range for vermicomposting or vermiculture processes is 70- 90%. Within this broad range, researchers have found slightly different optimums:

Dominguez and Edwards (1997) found that there is a direct relationship between the moisture content and the growth rate of earthworms. E. andrei cultured in pig manure grew and matured between 65 and 90% moisture content, the optimum being 85%. Until 85% moisture, the higher moisture conditions clearly facilitated growth, as measured by the increase in biomass. Increased moisture up to 90% clearly accelerated the development of sexual maturity, whereas not all the worms at 65-75% developed a clitellum even after 44 days. Additionally, earthworms at sexual maturity had greater biomass at higher moisture contents compared to worms grown at lower moisture contents. Canadian researchers in Nova Scotia tested moisture contents with different bedding materials, i.e. organic materials included shredded corrugated cardboard, waxed corrugated cardboard, immature municipal solid waste compost, biosolids (sewage sludge), chicken manure and dairy cow manure in a variety of combinations. They found that 75-80% moisture contents produced the best growth and reproductive response (GEORG, 2004).

The moisture content preferences of juvenile and clitellate cocoon-producing (adult) E. fetida in separated cow manure have been investigated. It ranged from 50% to 80% for adults, but juvenile earthworms had a narrower range of suitable moisture levels from 65% to 70%. Clitellum development occurred in earthworms at a moisture content from 60% to 70% but occurred later at a moisture content from 55% to 60%. The tolerance limit for low moisture conditions on the growth of E. fetida was reported to be below 50% for up to 1 month (Reinecke and Venter, 1987). While Gunadi et al. (2003) found that the earthworm growth rate was fastest in the separated cattle manure solids with a moisture content of 90% with a maximum mean weight of earthworms of 600 mg after 12 weeks. The slowest growth rate of E. fetida was in the separated cattle manure solids at a moisture content of 70%.

  • 2.1.4. Aeration

Worms require oxygen and cannot survive anaerobic conditions (very low or absence of oxygen). When factors such as high levels of grease in the feedstock or excessive moisture combined with poor aeration conspire to cut off oxygen supplies, areas of the worm bed, or even the entire system, can become anaerobic. This will kill the worms very quickly. Not only are the worms deprived of oxygen, they are also killed by toxic substances (e.g., ammonia) created by different sets of microbes that bloom under these conditions. This is one of the main reasons for not including meat or other greasy wastes in worm feedstock unless they have been pre-composted to break down the oils and fats.

14

2.1.5. Temperature control

Controlling temperature to within the worms‟ tolerance is vital to both

vermicomposting and vermiculture processes.

  • 2.1.5.1. Low temperatures

Eisenia can survive in temperatures as low as 0 o C, but they don‟t reproduce at single- digit temperatures and they don‟t consume as much food. It is generally considered necessary to keep the temperatures above 10 o C (minimum) and preferably 15 o C for vermicomposting efficiency and above 15 o C (minimum) and preferably 20 o C for productive vermiculture operations.

  • 2.1.5.2. Effects of freezing

Eisenia can survive having their bodies partially encased in frozen bedding and will only die when they are no longer able to consume food. Moreover, tests at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College (NSAC) have confirmed that their cocoons survive extended periods of deep freezing and remain viable (GEORG, 2004).

  • 2.1.5.3. High temperatures

Compost worms can survive temperatures in the mid-30s but prefer a range in the 20s ( o C). Above 35 o C will cause the worms to leave the area. If they cannot leave, they will quickly die. In general, warmer temperatures (above 20 o C) stimulate reproduction.

Hou et al. (2005) studied the influence of some environmental parameters on the growth and survival of earthworms in municipal solid waste. Earthworms attained the highest growth rate of 0.0459g / g-day at a temperature of 19.7˚C. The shortest growth period was 52 days at 25˚C, with the largest growth rate 0.0138 g /g-day. At 15˚C, 20˚C and 25˚C, the fastest growth rate appeared, respectively, in 53 days, 34 days and 27 days, with the growth rate 0.0068, 0.0123 and 0.0138 g /g-day.

Activities in all soil organisms follow a typical seasonal fluctuation. This cycle is related to optimal temperature and moisture, such that a peak in activity usually occurs in the spring as temperature and moisture become optimal after cold winter temperatures. In systems where snow accumulates on the soil surface, such that the soil does not actually freeze, fungal activity may continue at high levels throughout the winter in litter. Decomposition may continue at the highest rates through the winter under the snow in the litter. In systems where moisture becomes limiting in the summer, activity may reach levels even lower than in the winter. When temperatures remain warm in the fall and rain begins again after a summer drought, such as in Mediterranean climates, a second peak of activity may be observed in the fall. If these peaks are not observed, this suggests inadequate organic matter in the soil.

15

The growth of E. fetida in organic matter substrates with different moisture contents and temperatures has been studied by various authors in the laboratory. This species gained weight maximally and survived best at temperatures between 20˚C and 29˚C and moisture contents between 70% and 85% in horse manure and activated sludge (Kaplan et al., 1980). Edwards (1988) reported that the optimum growth of E. fetida in different animal and vegetable wastes occurred at 25-30˚C and at a moisture content range of 75-90%, but these factors could vary in different substrates.

2.1.5.4. Worms‟s response to temperature differentials.

Compost worms will redistribute themselves within piles, beds or windrows according to temperature gradients. In outdoor composting windrows in wintertime, where internal heat from decomposition is in contrast to frigid external temperatures, the worms will be found in a relatively narrow band at a depth where the temperature is close to optimum. They will also be found in much greater numbers on the south facing side of windrows in the winter and on the opposite side in the summer.

Edwards (1988) studied the life cycles and optimal conditions for survival and growth of E. fetida, D. veneta, E. eugeniae, and P. excavatus. Each of these four species differed considerably in terms of their responses and tolerance to different temperatures. The optimum temperature for E. fetida was 25 °C, and its temperature tolerance was between 0 and 35°C. Dendrobaena veneta had a rather low temperature optimum and rather less tolerance to extreme temperatures. The optimum temperatures for E. eugeniae and P. excavatus were around 25 °C, but they died at temperatures below 9°C and above 30°C. Optimal temperatures for cocoon production were much lower than those for growth for all these species.

2.2. Methods of vermicomposting

2.2.1. Pits below the ground

Pit of any convenient dimension can be constructed in the backyard or garden or in a field. It may be single pit, two pits or tank of any sizes with brick and mortar with proper water outlets. The most convenient pit or chamber of easily manageable size is 2m x 1m x 0.75m. The size of the pits and chambers should be determined according to the volume of biomass and agricultural waste. To combat the ants from attacking the worms, it is good to have a water column in the centre of the parapet wall of the vermin-pits.

The growth of E. fetida in organic matter substrates with different moisture contents and temperatures has

Photo 2.1. Open Pit Vermicomposting

Source: Kirungakottai (http://www.icasaweb.google.com)

16

  • 2.2.2. Heaping above the ground

The waste material is spread on a polythene sheet placed on the ground and then covered with cattle dung. Sunitha et al. (1997) compared the efficacy of pit and heap methods of preparing vermicompost under field conditions. Considering the biodegradation of wastes as the criterion, the heap method of preparing vermicompost was better than the pit method. Earthworm population was high in the heap method, with a 21-fold increase in Eudrilus eugenae as compared to 17-fold increase in the pit method. Biomass production was also higher in the heap method (46-fold increase) than in the pit method (31-fold). Consequent production of vermicompost was also higher in the heap method (51 kg) than in the pit method (40 kg). On the contrary, Saini (2008) compared the efficacy of pit and heap methods under field conditions over three seasons (winter, summer and rainy) using, Eisenia fetida. A pit size of 2 × 0.5 × 0.6 m (length × width × depth); and heap of size 2 × 0.6 × 0.5 m (length × width × hight) were prepared with the same amount of mixture. The pits and heaps were made under shady trees, in open field having a temporary shed made of straw, raised on pillars, to prevent them from direct sunlight and rainfall. The pits had brick linings and plastered bottoms. The pits and heaps carrying the organic waste mixture were covered with gunny bags and were watered at 10 liter/pit or heap daily, except on rainy days, to maintain moisture. On the basis of the results of three seasons, it was concluded that summer and winter were better for the pit method, whereas the rainy season favored the heap method for vermicomposting, utilizing Eisenia fetida. However, if the annual performance of the two methods is compared, the pit method produced more worms and more biomass. Therefore, on the latter grounds, the pit method of vermicomposting is more suitable than the heap method in the semi-arid sub-tropical regions of North-West India.

2.2.2. Heaping above the ground The waste material is spread on a polythene sheet placed on( http://agri.and.nic.in/vermi_culture.htm ) 2.2.3. Tanks above the ground Tanks made up of different materials such as normal bricks, hollow bricks, local stones, asbestos sheets and locally available rocks were evaluated for vermicompost preparation (Nagavallemma et al ., 2004). 17 " id="pdf-obj-26-14" src="pdf-obj-26-14.jpg">

Photo 2.2. Open heap vermicomposting

Source: Department of Agriculture, Andaman & Nicobar:

  • 2.2.3. Tanks above the ground

Tanks made up of different materials such as normal bricks, hollow bricks, local stones, asbestos sheets and locally available rocks were evaluated for vermicompost preparation (Nagavallemma et al., 2004).

17

Photo 2.3 . Commercial vermicompost operation at KCDC Bangalore, India. Source: Basavaiah (2006) 2.2.4. Cement rings

Photo 2.3. Commercial vermicompost operation at KCDC Bangalore, India.

Source: Basavaiah (2006)

  • 2.2.4. Cement rings

Vermicompost can also be prepared above the ground by using cement rings. The size of the cement ring should be 90 cm in diameter and 30 cm in height (Nagavallemma et

al., 2004).

Photo 2.3 . Commercial vermicompost operation at KCDC Bangalore, India. Source: Basavaiah (2006) 2.2.4. Cement rings

Photo 2.4. Cement ring vermicomposting.

Source: Nagavallemma et al.

(2004)

  • 2.2.5. Commercial model

This model contains partition walls with small holes to facilitate easy movement of earthworms from one chamber to another (Figure 2.1). Providing an outlet at one corner of each chamber with a slight slope facilitates collection of excess water. The four components are filled with plant residues one after another. Once the first chamber is filled layer by layer along with cow dung, earthworms are released. Then the second chamber is started filling layer by layer. Once the contents in first chamber are decomposed the earthworms move to the chamber 2, which is already filled and ready for earthworms. This facilitates harvesting of decomposed material from the first chamber and also saves labor for harvesting and introducing earthworms. This technology reduces labor cost and saves water as well as time (Twomlow, 2004). Water is saved by reducing evaporation from the surface during handling from one room to another in limited distances with minimum exposure to drier air outside. Tanks can be constructed with the dimensions suitable for operations. with small holes to facilitate easy movement of earthworms from one tank to the other.

18

Photo 2.5. Commercial vermicomposting unit Source: Ecoscience Research Foundation: <a href=( http://www.erfindia.org ) Vermicomposting based on the use of worms results in high quality compost. The process does not require physical turning of the material. To maintain aerobic conditions and limit the temperature rise, the bed or pile of materials needs to be of limited size. Temperatures should be regulated so as to favour growth and activity of worms. Composting period is longer as compared to other rapid methods and varies between six to twelve weeks. Figure 2.1 . Commercial model of vermicomposting developed by ICRISAT. Source: Twomlow, 2004. 19 " id="pdf-obj-28-2" src="pdf-obj-28-2.jpg">

Photo 2.5.

Commercial vermicomposting unit

Source: Ecoscience Research Foundation:

Vermicomposting based on the use of worms results in high quality compost. The process does not require physical turning of the material. To maintain aerobic conditions and limit the temperature rise, the bed or pile of materials needs to be of limited size. Temperatures should be regulated so as to favour growth and activity of worms. Composting period is longer as compared to other rapid methods and varies between six to twelve weeks.

Photo 2.5. Commercial vermicomposting unit Source: Ecoscience Research Foundation: <a href=( http://www.erfindia.org ) Vermicomposting based on the use of worms results in high quality compost. The process does not require physical turning of the material. To maintain aerobic conditions and limit the temperature rise, the bed or pile of materials needs to be of limited size. Temperatures should be regulated so as to favour growth and activity of worms. Composting period is longer as compared to other rapid methods and varies between six to twelve weeks. Figure 2.1 . Commercial model of vermicomposting developed by ICRISAT. Source: Twomlow, 2004. 19 " id="pdf-obj-28-16" src="pdf-obj-28-16.jpg">

Figure 2.1. Commercial model of vermicomposting developed by ICRISAT.

Source: Twomlow,

2004.

19

  • 2.3. The trial experience in Egypt

  • 2.3. 1. Earthworm types used:

Four types of earthworms were brought to Egypt from Australia. from Australia:

Lumbriscus Rubellus (Red Worm), Eisenia Fetida (Tiger Worm), Perionyx Excavatus (Indian Blue), and Eudrilus Eugeniae (African Night Crawler).

2.3. The trial experience in Egypt 2.3. 1. Earthworm types used: Four types of earthworms were

Photo 2.6. Earthworms used in Egypt

Source: Auther

2.3.2. Bedding

Two types of vermiculture were used. The first was aiming at increasing the population and known as breeding vermiculture. The other type is the growing system aiming at converting organic matter into vermicompost.

Commercially available perforated plastic containers, generally used for harvesting fruits and vegetables, each has the dimensions of 30cm wide, 50cm long and 20cm height were used for the breeding system. The first 5cm from the bottom was lined by a mixture of 2/3 shredded cardboard and 1/3 shredded newspaper, as bedding material. The cardboard and newspaper were wetted in a bucket of water; and allowing the excess water to run out before using. The next layer was 5cm of pH neutral castings spread evenly, then 1-2kg/m² of adult worms was supplied. Every 1-2 days, 1-2kg of old manure was added. The surface was covered by 5cm shredded newspaper to keep moisture.

The growing system was made of brick, with the dimensions 1m width, 0.5m height, and 3m long, and 0.5m between beds. The bottom of the beds was insulated by 20cm cement layer with a slight slope in order to facilitate collection of leachate (Photo

2.7).

The sequence of layers for the growing beds was the same as the breeding system except that the base of the bed was 10cm of cardboard/newspaper moist mixture, and the worms spread over the surface were the juvenile worms only.

20

Photo 2.7. Trial vermicompost set up at Dokki. Source: Author 2.3.3. Food For the feeding of

Photo 2.7.

 

Trial

vermicompost

set

up

at

Dokki.

Source: Author

2.3.3. Food

For the feeding of the breeding boxes, a mixture of rabbit manure and fresh kitchen scraps (citrus not more than 1/3 of food scraps) were used. The feed was mixed well in the mixing unit until it resembles dairy slurry. This was added in one strip along lengthwise wall in a maximum 5cm thick and 10cm wide. The feed was supplied again only when first strip is finished, and the new feed is added along opposite wall.

As for the growing beds, the feed varies over time. Potato wastes from the manufacturers as potato peels were brought into the site to be dried and used as needed. Plant wastes from the location were shredded and mixed with animal manure to be composted for 1-2 weeks. This semi-composted material was the base feed that goes to the mixing unit with available fruits and vegetable wastes were brought from the nearby shops. The feed mixture was spread evenly on the surface of the beds.

Photo 2.7. Trial vermicompost set up at Dokki. Source: Author 2.3.3. Food For the feeding of

Photo 2.8.

Mixture of food wastes and shredded plant material ready to be mixed in the rotating machine.

Source: Author

In order to facilitate the work, a shredding machine was manufactured locally (Photo 2.9) to prepare large plant material before mixed with other fruit or vegetable wastes using a rotating mixing machine.

21

Photo 2.9. The locally manufactured shredding machine. Source: Author
Photo 2.9.
The locally manufactured shredding
machine.
Source: Author
  • 2.3.4. Moisture

The rule of thump is to check manually for moisture on a daily basis to ensure that is

not too dry, and when watering it is important not to make it too wet. Only fresh water was used. The breeding boxes were rearranged to make the first on the top to become the first from the bottom in order to avoid moisture variations between the boxes. The instructions were:

  • - Water little and often only the newspaper on the surface should be wet.

  • - Water after checking the bed surface if already damp, skip one watering.

  • - Water should be used to supplement existing humidity and replace evaporation.

  • - Use a spray or mist, not jets of water.

  • 2.3.5. Aeration

The aeration was maintained as the bottom of beds or boxes has sufficient bedding material, and the surface is only shredded newspaper. The aeration could be a problem mainly if watering is not done properly leading to too wet conditions. Only the newspaper on the surface should be wet, and as mentioned earlier, water should be used to supplement existing humidity and replace evaporation. Beds must be mixed if:

  • - The bed smells bad.

  • - The bed is too wet.

  • - The bed is hot or lukewarm to touch.

  • - The worms are not distributed evenly on the surface.

  • - The section of bed turned only when there is no food on the surface of the bed, and to a depth of 10-15cm only.

22

2.3.6. Temperature

The location of the growing beds was selected in order to avoid strong winds. A shading roof made of reed mats was installed in order to prevent direct solar radiation over the beds in summer. The mats were removed during the winter. Narrower mats were used to cover the beds, as they shade the growing beds, and also protect from birds, cats or dogs.

The breeding boxes were laid under grape vines grown in a shaded greenhouse. In winter, the vines were pruned allowing sun to penetrate, while in summer the shading screens and the shade of the green leaves of the vines were pleasant, not only temperature wise, but also moisture as well. No other temperature control measures were used and this made growing and breeding conditions maintained stable over both summer and winter without major reduction in worms‟ activities. Temperatures maintained by daily checking. The general practice was to turn the beds or boxes when conditions were not suitable. When a bed is hot or lukewarm to touch, it must be mixed gently in order to allow air flow between the layers. In such cases, precomposted food must be used to prevent over heating from organic matter decomposition. It should be remembered that earth worms move from one side to another horizontally, and from the bottom to be close to surface and close or far from the food according to the comfortable combination of moisture and humidity. In such dynamic situations, temperature varies over time of the day, season, type of organic material, the covering material, as well as uniformity of the beds.

2.3.6. Temperature The location of the growing beds was selected in order to avoid strong winds.

Photo 2.10. The shaded growing beds at Dokki greenhouse station.

Source: Author

2.3.7 Harvesting

Harvesting is an important procedure for the success of vermiculture operations. Regardless of the harvesting target, it should be done quickly and simply. The target of harvest could be castings, adult worms or babies and eggs.

  • a- Harvesting castings is performed according to the following steps:

    • - Selecting a growing bed.

23

  • - Placing narrow strips of 1-2 day old manure along each side of bed.

  • - Waiting 1-2 days

  • - Scooping out from the centre of the bed some castings.

  • - Checking for eggs and worms these should be very limited.

  • - Collecting castings from centre of bed.

  • - Spreading castings to dry.

  • - When castings clump and crumble, pack into plastic bags with pin- prick holes

- Placing narrow strips of 1-2 day old manure along each side of bed. - Waiting

Photo 2. 11. Harvesting of castings.

source: Basavaiah (2006)

b- Harvesting adult worms is performed according to the following steps:

  • - Selecting a growing bed.

  • - Placing narrow strips of 1-2 day old manure inside 70% shade-cloth along centre of bed.

  • - Waiting 1-2 days.

  • - Collecting worms and castings from side walls.

- Placing narrow strips of 1-2 day old manure along each side of bed. - Waiting

Photo 2. 12. Harvested adult worms from the growing beds.

Source: Author

24

  • - Checking size of worm should be approaching reproductive state and clitellum should be noticeable.

  • - Placing adult worms in breeding beds.

  • - Checking castings for eggs - replace in growing bed.

- Checking size of worm – should be approaching reproductive state and clitellum should be noticeable.

Photo 2. 13.

A couple of adult worms, with clear clitellum in both of them.

Source: Author

c- Harvesting babies is performed according to the following steps:

  • - Selecting a breeding bed.

  • - Placing narrow strips of 1-2 day old manure or thin fruit peels (not citrus) inside 90% shade-cloth along centre of bed.

  • - Waiting1-2 days.

  • - Emptying contents straight into growing bed, under newspaper cover.

  • - Checking for babies that may be caught in shade-cloth. d- Harvesting eggs is performed according to the following steps:

    • - Selecting a breeding bed.

    • - Baiting one side of the bed.

    • - Wait 1-2 days.

    • - Scooping out the bed on the opposite side of the bait.

    • - Checking for adult worms and replace in bed.

    • - Placing contents directly in growing bed.

    • - Placing new bedding and food on empty side of breeding bed.

- Checking size of worm – should be approaching reproductive state and clitellum should be noticeable.

Photo 2.14.

Worm eggs.

Source: Author

25

3. Use of compost worms globally in countries of similar climate

The previous two chapters covered the historical background as well as the trial The Philippines, Cuba and India are examples of countries with similar overall conditions to Egypt Their technologies are simple and could be easily adapted to the local conditions. The United States of America is the model example of advanced technologies in vermiculture. Such examples will broaden the readers choice with what could be done in the future. Unfortunately, vermicompost and vermiculture are very limited in MENA region, Most of the studies look at utilization of local species to produce vermicompost. For example, Aldadi et al. (2005), Nourbakhsh (2007) and Yousefi et al. (2009) had some studies in Iran aiming for waste water treatment. Therefore, the following examples were selected to broaden the picture of commercial production. One could adapt or modify any of them or even create a newer version.

3.1 Vermicomposting in Philippines

The worms used are Lumbricus rubellus and/or Perionyx excavator. The worms are reared and multiplied from a commercially-obtained breeder stock in shallow wooden boxes stored in a shed. The boxes are approximately 45 cm x 60 cm x 20 cm and have drainage holes; they are stored on shelves in rows and tiers. A bedding material is compounded from miscellaneous organic residues such as sawdust, cereal straw, rice husks, bagasse, cardboard and so on, and is moistened well with water. The wet mixture is stored for about one month, being covered with a damp sack to minimize evaporation, and is thoroughly mixed several times. When fermentation is complete, chicken manure and green matter such as water hyacinth is added. The material is placed in the boxes and should be sufficiently loose for the worms to burrow and should be able to retain moisture. The proportions of the different materials will vary according to the nature of the material but a final protein content of about 15% should be aimed at. A pH value as near neutral as possible is necessary and the boxes should be kept at temperatures between 20 o C and 27 o C. At higher temperatures, the worms will aestivate and, at lower temperatures, they hibernate. The excess worms that have been harvested from the pit can be used in other pits, sold to other farmers for the same purpose, used or sold for use as animal feed supplement, used or sold for use as fish food or, may even be used in certain human food preparations (Misra and Roy,

2003).

African night crawler was introduced in the Philippines in the 1970s for the production vermicastings as an organic fertilizer. Its use today remains focused for this purpose. Recently, with rising cost of imported fishmeal, a study explores on the commercial farming of the species, specifically on its production economics, and the technical challenges in husbandry and operation (Cruz, 2005). This project was funding assistance of the DOST-PCAMRD 1 . The site chosen was a flat but slightly inclining area (around 3%) of approximately 1,000 m 2 . It is partially shaded by mahogany trees in the morning and the afternoon. The soil is clay loam with nearly neutral pH. Water used for the experiment was provided from an adjacent deep well.

1 Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development, (Department of Science and Technology)

26

A total of 8 units of 1 m x 5 m earthworm plots were constructed on bare ground utilizing roofing material as sidewalls. The sidewalls had a total height of around 40 cm, of which 3-4 cm was sunk on the ground. Wooden stakes supported these sidewalls. Each plot was sub-divided into two units of 1 m x 2.5 m beds for ease of management. The unit was provided with a hapa net lining, to prevent the worms from digging beneath the substrate and escaping. Plots were covered with a plastic sheet to protect it from direct sunlight and rain. A horizontal wooden beam stretching the length of plot and held by vertical poles provided the support for the plastic sheet cover. Earthworm plots were kept covered with a plastic canopy, and opened only during inspection or when watering was done.

A total of 8 units of 1 m x 5 m earthworm plots were constructed on

Photo 3.1.

Earthworm plots showing plastic

covers and support frame

Source: Wormsphilippines.com

Several types of substrates were used in the study; these were sugarcane bagasse, mudpress, spent mushroom substrate, and cow manure. The plots were watered every 3-6 days, depending on the weather. During the dry months, watering was routinely done every 3 days. Based on the data and experience gathered in this study, the cost and return projection for a larger scale earthworm farm are based on the following key assumptions:

  • - 3 full-time workers with a salary of PhP150 (3.33$)/day

  • - Crop cycle of 60 days (2 months), or 6 production cycles/yr

  • - Total of 52 units of 2.5 m 2 area earthworm plots

  • - Stocking of 1 bed a day (26 working days a month)

  • - Harvesting of 1 bed a day (26 working days a month)

  • - Earthworm stocking biomass of 3 kg/plot and harvest biomass of 9 kg/plot, fter 60 days (200% biomass gain)

  • - Total substrate volume of 600 kg/plot/crop cycle based on two 300 kg loadings

  • - 70% recovery of vermicastings from total substrate weight

  • - 20% recovery of vermi-meal from total earthworm biomass

The total operational cost for 52 plots for a 2 month crop cycle is estimated at PhP80,401.79 (1783.74$), including the cost of equipment depreciation (capital cost assumed at PhP5,000 per plot, depreciated in 6 crops or 1 year). The total volume of

27

vermicastings produced per crop is 21,840 kg based on a production of 420 kg/plot (from 600 kg x 70% recovery). The total gross production of earthworm biomass per crop is 468 kg, based on a yield of 9 kg/plot (from the 3 kg starter and 6 kg of biomass gain). At the selling price of 0.11$/kg of vermicastings and 0.22$/kg for the earthworms biomass, gross sales for one crop cycle is estimated at 2356.11$ and 1035.62$, respectively. This would provide the venture a net profit of around 742.73$ every 2 months, and a rate of return of 249.83% annually. The study suggests a potential for developing the use of earthworms in farm-made moist feeds. Such type of feed is simple to produce and is proven to work well when properly formulated and processed. In as much as the production technology for earthworm farming can be readily adopted at the village level, where organic raw materials abound and where labor is cheap.

3.2 Vermicomposting in Cuba

In Cuba, different methods are used for worm propagation and vermicomposting. The first and most common is cement troughs, two feet wide and six feet long, much like livestock watering troughs, used to raise worms and create worm compost. Because of the climate, they are watered by hand every day. In these beds, the only feedstock for the worms is manure, which is aged for about one week before being added to the trough. First, a layer of three to four inches of manure is placed in the empty trough, then worms are added. As the worms consume the manure, more manure is layered on top, roughly every ten days, until the worm compost reaches within a couple inches of the top of the trough, about two months. Then the worms are separated from the compost and transferred to another trough.

The second method of vermicomposting is windrows, where cow manure is piled about three feet across and three feet wide, and then it is seeded with worms. As the worms work their way through it, fresh manure is added to the end of the row, and the worms move forward. The rows are covered with fronds or palm leaves to keep them shaded and cool. Some of these rows have a drip system - a hose running alongside the row with holes in it. But mostly, the rows are watered by hand. Some of these rows are hundreds of feet long. The compost is gathered from the opposite end when the worms have moved forward. Then it is bagged and sold. Fresh manure, seeded with worms, begins the row and the process again. Some of the windrows have bricks running along their sides, but most are simply piles of manure without sides or protection. Manure is static composted for 30 days, then transferred to rows for worms to be added. After 90 days, the piles reach three feet high. It has been reported that worm populations can double in 60 to 90 days.

28

Photo 3.2. Windrows vermicomposting method: in Havana, Cuba . Source: newfarm.org 3.3. Vermicomposting in India A

Photo 3.2.

Windrows vermicomposting method:

in Havana, Cuba .

Source: newfarm.org

3.3. Vermicomposting in India

A study on production and marketing of vermicompost was carried out during 2007-

  • 08 in Dharwad District of Karnataka (Shivakumar et al., 2009). The study made an

attempt to analyze the economics of vermicompost production, marketing methods followed, financial feasibility of vermicomposting and the problems faced in vermicompost production and marketing in Dharwad District. The players involved in vermicompost production activities are the farming sector, government organizations, private organizations and other agencies. This has encouraged many government and nongovernment agencies to promote vermicompost production. The rough estimates indicate that Karnataka state produces around 40,000 to 50,000 metric tons annually. The study pertains to Dharwad district. Two locations of the district, namely Dharwad and Kalaghatagi were purposively selected and two villages each were randomly selected from each location. For the economics of production, 10 vermicompost producers, who followed traditional heap system of vermicomposting, were randomly selected from each village. Thus, the total sample size was 40 producers. The results

revealed that 70 % of vermicompost producers were illiterate. With regard to family type of vermicompost producers, it can be seen that as many as 60 % of them had a family, while 40 percent had joint families. A majority of them (~70 %) had annual income in the range of $257 to 1070$ followed by around 18 per cent of them having income of more than $1070 per annum and the rest having annual income of less than $257. With respect to method of production, heap method of vermicomposting was followed by 70 % of the producers and trench method was followed by the remaining

  • 30 %. With respect to method of production, a majority of respondents were found to

produce vermicompost using heap method because it costs considerably lower compared to the trench method of production. The production of Vermicompost provided part time employment for the family members and hence it generated additional revenue for the family.

The total cost of production of vermicompost per ton was 28.6$. The total marketing cost amounted to $4.3 per ton in channel-I (the producer-seller sold the produce to

29

users in Dharwad) and $3.2 per ton in channel-II (the producer-seller sold the produce through BAIF to the users in Kalghatagi). The net returns per ton of vermicompost were $26 in channel-I compared to $24.5 in channel-II. The net present value for the vermicompost production was $2136.89, the benefit cost ratio at 12% discount rate was 3.44, internal rate of return was 38% and payback period was 1.71 years.

Some islands in India such as Andaman and Nicobar islands are known for their wide variety of crops such as paddy, coconut, areca_nut, clove, black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and vegetables. About 2-3 kg of earthworms is required for 1000 kg of biomass, whereas about 1100 number earthworms are required for one square meter area. Non burrowing species are mostly used for compost making. Red earthworm species like Eisenia foetida and Eudrillus enginae are most efficient in compost making. Summary for Production of Vermicompost at Farm Scale is shown in Table

3.1.

Women self-help groupes (SHGs) in several watersheds in India have set up vermicomposting enterprises. By becoming an earning member of the family, they are involved in the decision-making process, which has raised their social status. One of the women managed to earn earned $36 per month from this activity. She has also inspired and trained 300 peers in 50 villages. (Nagavallemma et al., 2004).

users in Dharwad) and $3.2 per ton in channel-II (the producer-seller sold the produce through BAIF

Photo 3.3.

Women self-help group involved

in vermicomposting, to promote micro-enterprises and generate income

Source: Nagavallemma et al.

(2004)

30

Table 3.1. Summary for Production of Vermicompost at Farm Scale in Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) Islands, India:

Parameters

Low lying area

 

Hilly area

Low lying + Hilly area

Area (ha)

0.08

 

5.08

 

5.08

Cropping System

Paddy-

 

1

Coconut/

Paddy-vegetable

vegetable

2

Areca_nut

/ (1 ha) Coconut/

   

spices

arecanut/spices (1 ha)

Vermicompost requirement (kg/year)

2500 + 5000 = 7500

 

2500

7500 + 2500 =10000

     

1750 from

 

Crop residue requirement (kg)

7750 Paddy

system +

homestead waste

coconut or

areca_nut

plantations

3000 from paddy system + 6500 from plantations

Gliricidia production from fence (kg)

1250

 

1250

 

2500

Cow dung required (kg)

6000

 

2000 Kg

8000 kg

Number of animals required

1 cow + 4 goats+ 10 poultry birds

 

1 cow

 

2cow

Total waste for composting (kg)

15000

 

5000

 

20000

Earth worms required (kg)

7.5

2.5

10

RCC rings required

6 rings

 

2rings

8

rings

2 (3 rings +

 

1

(2 rings)

2 (4 rings+

Number of units

3 rings)

 

4

rings)

 

Expenditure/year

 

Capital Cost / year (A)

     

Cost of rings $

191.8$

 

191.8$

 

255.8$

Cost of shed $

53.3

 

53.3

 

74.6$

Running cost /year (B)

     

Labour and Miscellaneous cost

127.9$

 

127.9$

 

159.86$

Packaging cost

79.93$

 

79.93$

 

106.6$

Total (A+B)

452.9$

 

452.9$

 

596.8$

Returns / year

Vermicompost production (kg/year)

159.8

 

159.8

 

213.2

Returns

1438. 8$

 

1438. 8$

 

1918.2$

Net returns $ /year

985.8$

 

985.8$

1321.6$

Source: MBM-CARI-XIV, Vermicompost Production, central agricultural research institute, andaman and nicobar islands,, Central Agricultural Research India.: http://cari.res.in/

1 Coconut and arecanut produces around 8100 and 6900 kg of wastes/year, respectively. Hence, on an average, 7500 kg of wastes will be available per year for composting. If all the available wastes are utilized for production, the requirement of cowdung will be 5500 kg/year which can be met from one cow. Including Gliricidia, the total waste availability will be 15000 kg/year which requires 7.5 kg of earth worms and 2 units comprising 3 rings + 3 rings for composting. The total production will be 7500 kg of vermicompost/year. The additional quantity of 5000 kg/year available can be sold.

  • 2 Areca nut is the seed of the Areca palm (Areca catechu), which grows in much of the tropical Pacific, Asia, and parts of east Africa

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3.4. Vermicompost „teas‟ in Ohio, USA

These aqueous vermicompost extracts or „teas‟ are much easier to transport and apply,

than solid vermicomposts, and can duplicate most of the benefits of vermicomposts

when applied to the same crops. Additionally, they can be applied to crops as foliar sprays.

Work at The Ohio State University has shown that vermicompost „teas‟ increased the germination, growth, flowering, and yields of tomatoes, cucumbers, and other crops in similar ways to solid vermicomposts. The aerated, vermicompost „teas‟ suppressed the plant diseases Fusarium, Verticillium, Plectosporium, and Rhizoctonia to the same extent as the solid. Vermicompost „teas‟ also suppressed populations of spider mites (Tetranychus urticae) and aphids (Myzus persicae) significantly. Additionally, they had dramatic effects on the suppression of attacks by plant parasitic nematodes such as Meloidogyne on tomatoes both in terms of reducing the numbers of root cysts significantly and increasing root and shoot growth and Physico- chemical characteristics of the feed and optimum worm density are important parameters for the efficient working of a vermicomposting system. The results showed that E. fetida growth rate was faster at higher stocking densities; however, biomass gain per worm was faster at lower stocking densities. Sexual maturity was attained earlier at higher stocking densities. Growth rate was highest in 100% cow dung at all the stocking densities when compared to textile mill wastewater sludge containing feed mixtures. A worm population of 2753 worms per kg of feed was found to be the most favorable stocking density. Even when the physical conditions (temperature and moisture) and quality of waste (size, total organic carbon, total nitrogen, and total available phosphorus) are appropriate for vermicomposting, problems can develop due to overcrowding of earthworms. This study clearly showed that when E. fetida was allowed to grow at different stocking densities the worms grew slowly at higher stocking densities. The maximum body weight of earthworm was higher at lower stocking densities. Maturation rate was also affected by stocking rate. Worms attained sexual maturity earlier in crowded containers. Worms of same age developed clitellum at different times at different population densities. The results indicate that population of 2753 worms per kg and 48 worms per 150 g/feed mixture is optimum (Garg et al., 2008).

Most of the research on utilization of earthworms in waste management has focused on the final product, i.e. the vermicompost. There are only few literature references that have looked into the process, or examined the biochemical transformations that are brought about by the action of earthworms as they fragment the organic matter, resulting in the formation of a vermicompost with physicochemical and biological properties which seem to be superior for plant growth to those of the parent material. It has been reported that the storage of organic wastes over a period of time could alter the biochemistry of the organic matter and could eventually lead to the stabilization of the organic waste. Nevertheless, we hypothesize that adding earthworms to the organic wastes would accelerate the stabilization of these wastes in

32

terms of decomposition and mineralization of the organic matter, leading to a more suitable medium for plant growth(Atiyeh et al., 2000).

3.5. Vermicomposting in United Kingdom

In the UK, although the number of indoor or enclosed systems appears to be increasing, most vermicomposting systems would appear to be based on either outdoor windrows or covered shallow beds. There is very little evidence of mechanisation and the use of labor saving equipment, such as earthworm harvesters, is rare. The bed is approximately 5m wide, 50m long and 0.5m deep. The beds typically comprise wooden sides covered in a woven semi-permeable fabric containing coir or shredded wood chip bedding placed directly on the soil surface. When installed, the bed would have been inoculated with starting culture of adult earthworms at a density of approximately 0.5kg earthworms per m3 of bed. Up until recently, most vermicomposting facilities were modest in size with bed areas around 1,000 m 2 , but there is now a trend towards much larger units, as much as ten times this size. Very large units can process large amounts of waste, of the order of thousands of tonnes per year, making them comparable to many of the smaller municipal composting operations.

There is very little information available on the nature of the vermicomposting industry in the UK and what little exists is considered to be commercially sensitive. There are at least four major suppliers of large-scale vermicomposting systems currently operating. In year 2000, there were around 90 individual operators with 81,000 m 2 of beds. The total investment would have exceeded £1.25 million (Frederickson, 2003).

33

4. Current on-farm and urban organic waste management practices in Egypt: gap analysis.

The most important material for compost production is the organic material. There are two main sources of organic matter: farm wastes and urban wastes. In order to obtain such materials, one should understand waste management practices in the area. This chapter covers such an important subject.

4.1. On-farm organic waste

Agricultural wastes are defined according to the relevant legislation as “waste from agriculture that includes any substances or object which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard”. The disposal of biomass represents a problem for industries and society. It has been estimated that the off-farm disposed plant and animal wastes are 27 and 12 million tons annually, respectively. Burning of crop residues is a problem in Egypt, especially rice wastes. Egypt cultivates about 360.000 ha of rice according to 2008 statistics, with a production of 6 million tons of straw.

It is up to the grower to decide the way of disposing his agriculture wastes. The most common practice for disposing is by dumping it at municipal waste sites, dumping it in the desert or by simply burning it. The failure of any management plan to tackle the agriculture waste, especially rice straw, is based on the assumption that this waste is free, and the grower has to give it away. In fact the grower realizes that the waste becomes valuable once collected and ready for transport. On the other hand, as long as the residues are in his property, no one could force him to hand it over. For him, burning the residue in site has some agricultural benefits, such as use of minerals of the ash, or getting rid of insects and diseases on above the ground as a result of burning.

Even though the practice is well known, farmers in many parts of the world especially in developing countries find themselves at a disadvantage by not making the best use of organic recycling opportunities available to them, due to various constraints which among others include absence of efficient expeditious technology, long time span, intense labor, land and investment requirements, and economic aspects.

In rural areas, in particular, the implementation of effective solid waste management systems is faced with a number of constraints. These constraints are related to environmental conditions, institutional/ administrative issues, financial matters, technical deficiencies and planning and legal limitations.

As for agriculture waste, two options for treating rice straw are recommended. The first is to collaborate with the fresh universities graduates to collect such dispersed produced amount in order to be used in the compost making activities, the other option is to install small manufactures for fiber processing to produce packages for exported crops as rice straw could be used as a virgin material.

34

4.1.1.

Weak points in rice straw system in Egypt

There is an extreme shortage of the combining, raking and baling machines, and no enough trucks to transport the ready straw bales (economical problem). In addition, the un-paved dirt roads that makes the transportation between farms and market (economical and managerial problems) almost impossible. On the other hands, agricultural co-operations have to work to provide a storage place for the ready bales, trucks and some mechanical equipment to overcome the previous obstacles. To facilitate such work, GIS maps should provide the farms sites in each governorate and a full study of the road status that will be used for the transportation.

4.2. Urban wastes

Main four systems were involved in solid waste management before the trend to privatization; The Governmental system including Cairo and Giza "Cleansing and Beautification Authorities". These central agencies were responsible for municipal solid waste activities including regulation of private service delivery. In spite of creating such powerful entities, they were not effective and faced lots of problems.

The second system is the conventional Zabbaleen (informal waste collectors) system, which offers door-to-door service in return for the monthly fee. Thirdly, there is the formal private sector system, which has been introduced in larger cities and some provincial towns. Each private operator must have a collection license or a service contract for his assigned area from the local municipality. Finally, there is Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), which perform some limited solid waste services, especially in rural areas and small cities.

  • 4.2.1. Overview of solid waste management problem in Egypt

The problem of solid waste management in Egypt has been growing at an alarming rate. Its negative manifestations, as well as its direct and indirect harmful consequences on public health, environment and national economy (particularly as related to manpower productivity and tourism) are becoming quite apparent and acute. In large cities like Cairo and Alexandria the problem reached such serious proportions that they called for considerable government intervention and a series of judicious actions in the short, medium, and long term.

In essence, the problem as described in the National Waste Management Strategy 2000- lies in the fact that:

"The present systems could not satisfy the served community needs with its various strata for a reasonably accepted cleansing level, as well as in reducing the negative health and environmental impacts, or in improving the aesthetic appearance".

35

The clearly evident symptoms of the problem are:

  • - Various levels of waste accumulations at various places and locations that became liable to various vectors (rodents and insects) and environmental pollution, bad smells and appearance, aside from frequent uncontrolled open burning that all contribute to negative health and environmental impacts.

  • - Ineffective and environmentally non-sound handling, treatment and recycling techniques that may pose health risks.

  • - Prevalent open-dump type of random solid waste disposal as well as indiscriminate dumping leading to various associated health and environmental hazards.

  • 4.2.2. Main factors contributing to soil waste management problem

Municipal solid waste contents for the years 2000-2008 and their distribution are illustrated in Table (4.1) and Table (4.2). The main factors contributing the solid

waste problems in Egypt could be summarized as follows:

  • - Actions taken in the past were not always sustainable, and the issues were not addressed in a comprehensive and integrated manner.

  • - Accurate and reliable data concerning solid waste quantities, rates of generation, composition does not exist. Numerous attempts to quantify the problem have been made; however, these attempts are by no means comprehensive or rigorous.

  • - Laws are not applicable with very weak mechanisms for enforcement.

  • - The involvement of the private sector in SWM activities in Egypt has been minimal till the last decade when the private sector became more involved.

  • - Ineffective recycling activities, especially with all kinds of waste mixed together without any plan to encourage sorting at source. Moreover, non- hazardous and hazardous wastes are mixed through the "waste cycle".

  • - Low level of public awareness and improper behaviors and practices in relation to solid waste handling and disposal.

Table 4.1. Municipal solid waste contents 2000, 2005 and 2008

 

Waste % 2000

Waste % 2005

Waste % 2008

Organic materials

45-55%

50-60%

50-60%

Paper

10-20%

10-25%

10-25%

Plastic

3-12%

3-12%

3-12%

Glass

1-5%

1-5%

1-5%

Metal

1.5- 7%

1.5- 7%

1.5- 7%

Fabrics

1.2- 7%

1.2- 7%

1.2- 7%

Others

11-30%

11-30%

11-30%

Source: EEAA (2001) and (2006) and CAPMAS (2010)

36

Table 4.2. Distribution of waste according to the sources in 2000 and 2005

Source

 

Estimated quantity

2000

2005

Municipal garbage

 

14-15 million ton

15-16 million ton

Industrial

4-5 million ton

4.5 - 5 million ton

Agricultural

23 million ton

25-30 million ton

Sludge

1.5 -2 million ton

1.5 -2 million ton

Clearing

banks

and

20 million ton

20 million ton

sewage outputs

Hospitals

100 -120 million ton

100 -120 million ton

Construction demolition waste

and

3-4 million ton

3-4 million ton

Source: EEAA (2007)

4.2.3. Waste generation rates

The total quantity of solid wastes generated in Egypt is 118.6 million tons/year in 2007/2008 as shown in Table (4-3) estimates, including municipal solid waste (garbage), industrial waste, agricultural waste, sludge resulting from sanitation treatment, hospital wastes, construction and demolition debris and wastes from the cleaning of canals and drains. Municipal solid wastes (garbage) include remains of households (about 60 %), shops and commercial markets, service institutions such as schools and educational institutes, utilities, hospitals, administrative buildings, streets, gardens, markets, hotels, and recreation areas, in addition to small factories and camps. Resource recovery reduces the quantity of raw materials needed in production processes. It may therefore reduce dependency on imports and save foreign currency. Reused rubber and plastics, for example, reduce the need for imported raw materials and the reuse of organic waste as compost reduces the dependence on imported chemical fertilizers. Resource recovery saves natural resources, particularly in the form of raw materials and energy. The recycling of aluminum, for example, results in energy savings 14 of up to 96%. An environmentally sound waste disposal system should therefore involve resource recovery as much as possible. However, waste recovery also creates employment opportunities that can conflict with environmental and health criteria. Although the reuse of organic waste helps to prevent environmental degradation and pollution, the recovery methods themselves are often not environmentally sound and may pose health hazards for workers. Within solid waste disposal systems environmental, socio-economic and health costs are rarely considered. The total costs of safe and environmentally acceptable solid waste disposal are poorly documented and are therefore underestimated. However, it is against this background that resource recovery needs to be valued and supported in order to use the potential of recovery to its full extent and to improve existing practices. For many people, working in the informal waste sector is the last resort in the daily struggle for survival. Incomes are usually minimal, and working conditions are often appalling. Nevertheless, some traders have managed to set up a feasible business that can earn reasonable profits. All these people provide a valuable service to society as a

37

whole; in many cities the municipal refuse collection and disposal services are woefully inadequate, particularly in low-income areas, where waste accumulates in the streets. Improved recovery processes could therefore reduce the amounts of waste that need to be collected, and thus the costs of municipal waste disposal, and could help to reduce the risk to human health. For example, Cairo is renowned for its extensive informal waste recycling system. In the Cairo metropolitan area, 6000 tons of municipal solid waste is generated daily. The municipality collects about 2400 tons per day, while informal workers collect about 2700 tons of household waste per day using a fleet of some 700 donkey carts. The balance of 900 tons remains on the city streets, vacant lots and the peripheries of poorly serviced low-income areas of the city.

Table 4.3. Distribution of wastes according to its sources and Governorates 2007/2008

 

Source (ton/month)

 

Governorate

Municipal

Industrial

Agricultural

Sludge

Clearing

banks &

Hospitals

Construction

and

m

3

sewage

demolition

Cairo

1761668

149914

-

-

-

49860

811488

Giza

139650

-

-

-

-

-

77100

Qalyobia

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Alexandria

-

620500

1296506

-

-

-

-

Behira

27330

-

4099.5

5072500

-

1366.5

-

Menofia

3281224

2749.42

20617.7

7168

169239

899.57

5035.83

Gharbia

40860

32.5

10069.6

-

-

0.5

-

Kar ElSheih

65600

-

369619

-

3550

33

56

Damitta

1124

337.2

-

-

-

-

-

Daqhlia

-

-

456517

-

-

-

-

North Sinia

14.75

700

2083.3

8.3

-

31.7

283.3

South Sinia

47

-

-

-

-

-

-

Port Said

18390.1

-

-

2205

-

244.11

-

Ismailia

17160

240

2918

369750

25000

35.9

17053

Suis

118625

51666.7

  • - 243.33

18250

37083.3

 

760.417

Sharqia

12000

-

  • - 11.648

-

-

 

-

Beni Suif

45420

178

  • - 32.88

335.3

-

 

975

Minia

13406

53.4

45666.5

218

3186

33.08

2566

Assuit

6120

-

-

-

-

-

-

New valley

2322

-

6166

  • 416 666

 

14.7

583

Sohag

2691

382

409

  • 330 250

 

290

1919

 

2046

15

       

135

Qena

480m3

90m 3

340

-

1500

9.5

12545m 3

Asswan

76003.3

6360

64.1667

0.5833

0.833333

134.46

4080

 

16650

         

1500

Red sea

12750m 3

-

-

-

-

2.55

100m 3

Luxor

550

50

250

120

150

8

360

Total

5649880.15

833278

2215326

8587.88

203541.8

53255

924254.55

13230

m 3

90

m 3

-

5462713 m 3

37083.3 m 3

-

12645

m 3

Source: EEAA (2007).

The informal sector in Egypt plays a significant role in the solid waste services including waste recycling. This sector has been growing significantly over the last three decades. Therefore, it is essential to understand and recognize the complex role of this sector in solid waste services and to benefit from its existing infrastructure and expertise in any formal initiative (GTZ, 2004).

38

Over the last three decades, the informal garbage collectors have drastically developed the volume and scope of activities they perform. Solid waste operators in the informal sector generally perform five functions: collection, transportation, recovery, trade, and recycling. It is usually a family business where men do the transportation and trading and women do most of the sorting.

The waste sorting and recovery is almost entirely done in the courtyard of garbage

collector‟s houses. After waste collection and transportation to the Zabbaleen area,

waste is sorted into: (i) organic waste that is fed to the animals, sold to others as

animal feed, or sent for composting; and (ii) non-organic waste that is categorized into: paper, plastic, metal, glass, fabric, bones, and residual non-recyclable waste. Subsequently, another sorting process is then undertaken to sort different sub-types of each of the main categories while non-recyclable waste is transported to the municipal disposal site on a monthly basis. The recovered material is sold while the non- recoverable materials are sent to the municipal dumps. Recyclable materials sorted into categories and sub-categories of paper, plastic, metal, glass, fabric, and bones are transferred to recycling workshops. In 2000, there were more than 220 recycling workshops in the Zabbaleen area of Cairo. About 90% own their workshop space (even if informally) while the remaining 10% rent their workshop. A workshop employs six workers on average. The average area of the recycling workshop is 155 square meters but varies widely depending on the recycling activity performed. Generally plastic recycling and cloth grinders use up the most space and their workshops usually have an area more than 200 m 2 . Metal recycling industries need less space.

4.2.4. Major conventional solid waste systems are

- Governmental system: municipalities or cleaning authorities (Cairo and Giza) collect and transfer wastes from the streets, bins, public containers, and supervises public dumpsites and the operation of composting plants either directly or through the private sector. - Traditional “Zabbaleen” (garbage collectors) system: in this system, which date back to the early twentieth century, collectors collect garbage from household units and some commercial establishments, and transfer it to their communities (Zabbaleen villages) for sorting and recycling. Although working conditions and methods used, that are of minimal costs and do not comply with the requirements of health and the environment, yet they are considered by clients as a considerably good service. Further, this system achieves the highest recovery degree possible; sometimes reach 80% of the garbage collected by Zabbaleen, which is estimated by 3000 tons per day in Cairo (about 30% of the total amount generated daily). Local private companies: these collect and transfer garbage in a number of Egyptian cities.

They represent a developed model of the garbage collectors‟ system, working in

limited areas under the supervision and control of municipalities or cleaning authorities. The final disposal of wastes takes place either at the garbage collectors communities or in public dumpsites.

39

4.3. Overview of organic waste recovery options

Since organic material forms all farm wastes and a large proportion of urban refuse,

ways can be sought as to use this resource more effectively. Organic material can be reused in three ways:

  • - to feed animals (fodder),

  • - to improve the soil (compost),

  • - to produce energy (biogas or briquettes).

The first two options are already very common in economically less developed countries. In Lahore, Pakistan, for example, 40% of urban refuse is collected by farmers and used as animal feed and soil amendment.

  • 4.3.1. Feeding animals

Raising animals is the easiest possibility; in most cases organic waste can be fed directly to domestic animals without pretreatment, but cooking or the addition of nutrients may sometimes be necessary. This strategy refers to diverting food not appropriate for human consumption to animal feed. While a potentially useful outlet for food scraps that otherwise would be disposed, this avenue tends to be limited primarily to food processors and beer industries and may not be feasible for urban institutions. In some cases, rural corrections facilities and land-grant colleges have the appropriate combination of circumstances that allows for the collection and feeding of certain food scraps to on-site animals.

  • 4.3.2. Compost

Composting is the microbial decomposition of discarded organic materials under controlled conditions. The end product, compost, is used as an organic soil amendment. It promotes microbiological activity in soils necessary for plant growth, disease resistance, water retention and filtration, and erosion prevention. Compost can be used in various ways. As a soil amendment, compost enhances the physical, chemical, and biological properties of soil. The macro-nutrient value of compost is typically not high relative to fertilizers. Compost enriches the soil by increasing organic matter. Additionally, compost increases soil‟s capacity to hold water. By amending soil with compost, soil is better able to hold nutrients. Nutrients do not leach as easily; rather, they are released more slowly to plants, which can reduce the need for fertilizers. Compost can also suppress fungal diseases in soil, which can be particularly important to the golf and nursery industries. The utilization of earth worms, as discussed previously, could play a strong role in converting organic wastes, whether urban or rural, into a valuable vermicompost material.

4.3.3 Landfill disposal or incineration

This strategy refers sending organic materials to a disposal facility to be landfilled or incinerated. This is considered the least desirable strategy from a social, environmental, and sometimes economic perspective.

40

The garbage from which the recyclable items have been removed is dumped by a mechanical front-end loader through a grid onto a conveyor belt, which transfers the garbage to a hopper and finally to a rotating, cylindrical drum, where the compost is sieved. At the end of the sieve, children anxiously wait for some useful remnants. The maturity of the compost is determined by measuring the temperature. Normally, the plant processes 30 tons (60 m 3 ) of compost per shift per day. During the season when land is prepared for cultivation (November to February) output is doubled by working two shifts per day. The plant provides jobs for 11 employees (1 consultant, 1 plant manager, 1 technician, 1 electrician, 1 operation and maintenance manager, 3 security guards, 2 drivers, and 1 messenger). Mechanical parts for the plant can be bought in Egypt, although some electrical parts have to be imported. Although the quality of the compost appears to be good, it has been found to contain small pieces of glass and plastics, and large quantities of heavy metals.

The major pressures on solid waste management in Egypt are exemplified in the increase in waste quantities generated due to the escalating population, on the one hand, and the change in consumption patterns in towns and villages alike, on the other hand, in addition to the lack of awareness and the wrong handling of solid wastes in general. Various studies on ducted during the last two decades in a number of Egyptian Governorates and cities point out to a significant decrease in municipal solid waste collection efficiency totally lacking in some rural areas. Consequently, large amounts of waste accumulations appeared in streets, vacant land between buildings and different areas in cities and populated areas throughout the past years. Such areas have become focal points of environmental pollution and represent significant pressures on human health as well as on the environment.

41

Table 4.4. Egypt‟s Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan for the period 2007-

2012.

 

The cost of the program / million Egyptian pound

 

Total with

Remove

Improve

Establish

Establish

Improve

Establish

million

Governorate

Accumula-

tions

process of

collections &

transportation

intermediate

station

recycle

centers

work in

controlled

Dumpsites

sanitary

landfill

Egyptian

pound

Cairo

---

13

13

30

40

30

126

Alexandria

15

17

5

5

---

---

42

Giza

---

30

30

10

10

30

110

Kalyobiya

---

19.5

19.5

10

10

30

89

Dakahilya

60

56.5

16

10

---

30

172.5

Gharbeya

52

31.5

16

10

---

30

139.5

Monofiya

6

33

10

10

---

30

89

Beheira

8

47

13

10

---

40

118

Kafr-ELShiekh

6

27

10

15

---

30

83

Sharkia

10

48.5

10

10

---

30

108.5

Damietta

3

26

10

10

---

---

64