GROWTH OF VERMICULTURE IN INDIA -
September 15th, 2010
Vermiculture in India
Vermiculture has been the primary focus at Maharashtra Agricultural Bioteks in India, an organization which has initiated both commercial and educational ventures to promote vermiculture.
In 1985, Maharashtra Agricultural Bioteks was formed and established a small plant to manufacture vermicompost from agricultural waste. Those involved believed that a successful commercial venture based on regenerative principles might convince others to adapt sustainable practices.
The organization currently produces 5,000 tons of vermicompost annually. Its real achievement, however, has been in raising awareness among farmers, researchers and policy makers in India about regenerative food production methods. The group is directly responsible for 2,000 farmers and horticulturists adopting vermicomposting. These converts have begun secondary dissemination of the principles they were taught.
In 1991-92, Maharashtra Bioteks and the India Department of Science and Technology promoted the adoption of vermicompost technology in 13 states in India. The group has also established a vermicompost unit with Chitrakoot Gramodaya University, Madhya Pradesh which produces five tons of vermicompost per month.
One of the most conspicuous features of the modern consumerist society is the generation of massive quantities of waste, which is both costly and difficult to dispose of through conventional methods. Mountains of solid wastes lying unattended in street corners have become an inseparable part of the Indian urban scenario.
It has been computed that India, as a whole, generates as much as 25 million tonnes of urban solid waste of diverse composition per year. But per capita waste production in India is minisculous compared to the per capita production of wastes in the industrialized countries. Even so, the problem of waste disposal in India has of late attaining serious proportions posing as it does immense health hazards and an environmental crisis of the first magnitude.
The problem of waste disposal is now being tackled with a greater degree of efficiency and a heightened level of confidence. Not only waste materials are decomposed into a harmless by products, but also many useful materials are derived from out of the process of recycling. Currently the most popular and widely employed technique for solid waste disposal relies on earthworms generally referred to as “farmers’ friend”. For centuries, earthworms, as biological natural agents, have been in the business of decomposing wastes and enriching the soil structure.
An innovative discipline of vermiculture biotechnology the breeding and propagation of earthworms and the use of its castings has become an important tool of waste recycling the world over. Essentially, the vermiculture provides for the use of earthworms as natural bioreactors for cost-effective and environmentally sound waste management.
As it is, the Pune-based Bhawalkar Earthworm Research Institute has done commendable work in exploiting the vermiculture technology for urban waste recycling. Many voluntary agencies in cities like Pune and Bangalore are actively involved in employing vermicultural techniques for waste treatment and garbage management. For instance, in one of the residential extensions of Bangalore, a voluntary agency called Wastewise has organized 400 residents into a group to collect household wastes and recycle it using vermicultural technology. A group of six ragpickers collect waste from each of the household in the extension. The residents then segregate the waste.
Substances such as glass bottles and plastics are sold to the existing network of dealers. The city corporation collects hazardous wastes along with the construction rubble. The biodegradable wastes are composted behind the street corner garbage dumpyard using earthworms. This compost is then sold back to the residents of the area for use in their kitchen gardens.
The process evolved by Bhawalkar Earthworm Research Institute has been successfully employed in the urban centres of India and elsewhere in Asia for recycling of biodegradable domestic waste. The energy input in the processing is very small compared to the existing waste disposal systems and the processing cost is next to the nothing.
Different kinds of wastes can be collected in specially designed bins and subjected to vermicomposting using vermicastings secreted by the earthworms. As things stand now, the vermiculture technology is all set to emerge as a big business of the next century. For, this versatile technique yields organic fertilizers, recovers energy rich resources, makes for safe disposal of organic wastes and helps combat the spreading problem of environmental pollution.
Today, many corporate units and business agencies are making a fortune by marketing vermicompost—an excellent soil conditioner—to the farmers and gardeners. For thousands of years now, the process of vermicomposting has been in vouge in nature due to the activities of earthworms which excrete droppings called vermicastings. It has been estimated that about 5,000 earthworms can degrade a heap of organic wastes of the dimension 1.2x2.4mx0.6m speedily and efficiently.
BERI has established six large-scale vermicomposting projects, and motivated nearly 5,000 farmers in 16 Indian states to use worms in their farming practices. Several experiments have proven that vermiculture can contribute significantly to crop yields and quality.
In the Pune district, grape production increased 50 percent at a vineyard that employed earthworms. In Maharashtra State, vermiculture helped stabilize soil pH and increase potash (a type of potassium and key plant nutrient) content of the soil. In Auroville, Southern India, worms are credited for doubling wheat production and quadrupling grass pasture production. Savings on input costs such as fertilizer and water have dramatically increased profits.
A project that began in 1991 at Sanjeewan School at Panchgani in Maharashtra, India, uses a vermifilter - a filter employing earthworm to process sewage for 550 students. The vermifilter uses vermicastings, beneficial (aerobic) bacteria, a plant root matrix, and burrowing earthworms.
However, for further increasing the efficiently. However, for further increasing the efficacy of vermicomposting, care should be taken to see that worms thrive on organic matter, breed faster, tolerate moisture and withstand climatic fluctuations. The most beneficial feature of vermicomposting is that it eliminates foul smell of decaying organic wastes.
Japan imports 3000-million tonnes of earthworm per annum for waste conversion. But India is still a long way behind in fully exploiting the promises of vermiculture technology for waste disposal and manure generation. With the amount of waste produced in India, the country could easily produce 400 million tonnes of plant nutrients and considerably reduce the outflow of foreign exchange towards the import of fertilizers. Today, many industrial units covering paper, pulp and tanning make use of vermiculture technology for waste treatment.
Now there is an all-round recognition that adoption and exploitation of vermiculture biotechnology would besides arresting ecological degradation could go a long way towards meeting the nutrient needs of the agricultural sector in a big way. On another front, widespread use of vermicultural biotechnology could result an increased employment opportunity and rapid development of the rural areas. It is hightime that the scientific community of the country gave a serious attention to standardizing and popularizing vermiculture technology on a countrywide basis.
Some organizations using vermiculture are
Nirula's Corner House Ltd
The vermiculture plant uses worms to convert the vegetable waste generated from the food-processing unit at Noida into vermi-compost, which is a good natural fertilizer.
Velvet Hills Retreat has initiated a vermiculture program.
Mumbai too has its share of vermiculture units, with the Bal Bhavan (an educational institute) taking an interest in the technology.
There is a small garden near Hassaram Rijhumal College (Churchgate, Mumbai) which has a vermiculture pit and which uses worm castings for manure. However, India still has a long way to go before vermiculture becomes popular among the masses.
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