N.C. State University’s Annual Vermiculture Conference, held in Durham in May, attracted more than 110 participants from across the country and from five other countries. The annual conference, aimed at large-scale vermicomposting operations, is the only one of its kind in the country.
Vermiculture uses worms to break down organic waste material, and the resulting byproduct – called vermicompost – is valued as a rich fertilizer. Research has shown that plants raised with vermicompost produce greater yields and have stronger disease resistance, said Rhonda Sherman, conference organizer and solid waste extension specialist in biological and agricultural engineering, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Sherman’s vermicompost website <http://www.bae.ncsu.edu/topic/vermicomposting/vermiculture/worm_publications.html> attracts visitors and inquiries from around the world. Workshop participants this year came from as far away as Guatemala, India, Thailand, Israel and Canada.
The conference included a tour of an operation that sells earthworms, vermicompost and vermicompost tea – a liquid fertilizer. The grower maintains 1,000 pounds of worms in four 42-foot beds, and bags and sells vermicompost using a homemade harvester.
In addition to the tour, speakers addressed a variety of topics, including vermicomposting technologies, vermicompost research studies, earthworm husbandry, bioremediation of contaminated soils, vermicompost applications, marketing products, brewing and applying vermicompost tea, and testing vermicompost.
— Natalie Hampton