If you dig natural healthy soil, there is a high chance that you’ll come across some worms! Earthworms are commonly found in healthy gardens and many farmers know their benefits.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of earthworms is the role they play as natural soil recyclers. In a nutshell, the worms take organic waste and convert it into plant nutrients. Studies have shown that worm excretions, also known as “castings” are the most potent natural fertilizers.
What are the Benefits of Worm Castings?
If you are into organic farming, consider using worm castings for their benefits, which include protecting your plants from pests and diseases.
Read on for an overview of how worm castings can help to improve your plant growth, yield, and health.
Using Worm Castings for Soil Remediation
Some plants, for example, cannabis, are extremely effective at absorbing toxins from the soil. These plants are good when used for soil remediation. However, the same cannot be said of the plants if they are grown for consumption.
Worm castings help to prevent toxins such as heavy metals from getting absorbed by plants.
Growing Healthy Plants with Worm Castings
Worm castings are not only rich in nutrients but also microbes that make the soil healthy. These microorganisms are usually multiplied within the digestive tract of the worms to break down nutrients so that they can be easily digested by plants.
Simple Grow Soil worm castings enrich the soil, giving it about 100 times more healthy bacteria than regular soil. The castings can even be used with other fertilizers for high crop yields.
Below are some other benefits of using worm castings for plant growth:
- The castings contain plant growth hormones called Auxins, which help to increase growth and yield
- They are rich in humic acid, which helps to free up plant nutrients
- They aggregate and compact the soil structure, which is helpful in giving the plant roots a firmer “hold” and prevents water erosion
- They increase the surface area of the soil, helping in its drainage and aeration
- They can hold up 9 times their own weight in water, and readily provide the water to plants
- They help to balance out the pH of the soil, making plants flourish in different types of soils
Perhaps the best thing about worm castings is that you don’t have to worry about using too much of them. The castings hold and release nutrients over time. Therefore, unlike artificial fertilizer or animal manure, nutrients from the castings will not burn your plants. Apart from this, castings do not build up in the soil and can be used by many organisms in the soil food web.
Using Worm Castings to Protect Seeds
Worm castings have been found to help both plants and seeds be more disease-resistant. The castings help to shorten the germination cycle and colonize the surface of the seeds to protect them from infection.
If you are into organic farming, you can use worm casts instead of synthetic pesticides. Studies show casts are effective in protecting seeds, thus contributing to a healthier environment.
Using Worm Castings to Protect Your Plants
When plants grow, they become more resistant to pests and diseases. As a result, their need for pesticides reduces. Worm castings help plants to grow healthy. Apart from this, they can defend the plants from pests and vermin.
The bio-pesticide industry is increasingly using worm castings to prevent plant diseases. The casts contain chitinase, an enzyme that strengthens the natural defenses of plants and repels pests. In the cannabis plant, worm casts help to keep insects like aphids and spiders at bay, while also preventing the occurrence of fungal diseases such as Pythium rot.
Caution When Using Worm Castings
The benefits of using worm castings in improving plant growth and yield cannot be denied. Castings make soil healthier, balance out its pH and absorb heavy metals.
However, not all worm castings are created equally. Earthworms take in decomposing material from the soil and any other compounds in their surroundings. Therefore, in case the surroundings contain toxic materials, the earthworms will also take them in and effectively become toxin vectors.
This brings about a problem because the worms eventually become a food source themselves. If they are laden with toxins, the plants exposed to them through the soil can absorb these toxins.
For example, earthworms have been found to absorb DDT, a synthetic pesticide that is banned in many countries. Just 11 earthworms are enough to trigger a lethal dose of DDT to a robin. This can present a challenge to organic farmers keeping birds and feeding them worms.
The absorption of toxins by earthworms is one of the reasons why worms should be reared in a safe organic environment, and why you need high-quality worm castings.