Farmers who may have been advised that they can replace fertilisers with vermicast produced on their farm must understand that there is not necessarily one general system which applies to every situation, It is neither safe nor satisfactory to assume that the application of worm castings will give you independence from chemicals, even though castings can transform soil, Neither can you work on the assumption that all you need do is ‘put in a pit and fill it with feed and worms’, A pit is little more than a cheap method of providing protection against extremes of weather and you must construct an absolutely reliable drainage system, otherwise sustained heavy rain will drown your worms. I have seen it happen. The cost of a drainage system will often outweigh the savings you may think you are making. A pit is far from being a fail-safe system and is fraught with danger.
There has been a good deal of promotion of Farm Systems wherein the system proposed is a pit filled with feed and worms added. Some farmers have paid quite large sums of money for this and lost it, so be cautious. Many self-styled messiahs, being long on rhetoric but short on substance, are quite dangerous and do nothing but damage to customers and the industry. Be suspicious and take your suspicions to a recognised authority like the CSIRO Division of Sails, Adelaide.
However, a properly conducted on-farm system can save you big money and help eventually to establish sustainable fertility in your soil, with all the savings in costs and increases in profits that this implies, Therefore, why try to do it on the cheap? Cheap is usually nasty. Neither should you try to reinvent the wheel, That’s a costly process and very rarely productive. Your farm system will be in use for many years and, if designed well to suit your specific needs, the investment will pay blue-chip dividends.
This (metre square nursery greenhouse with 3 metre straight sides of opaque plastic can comfortably produce large volumes of casts. Loader access to the beds is from two sliding doors. The beds measure 3 metres square with one removable wall. The worms should be removed by baskets
As with all worm systems, you must first ensure that you have enough feed. Virtually anything organic will do, but manures are best The following guide will help you calculate how much you will need to provide sufficient vermicast for your acreage:
4000 worms farmed in a bed usually weigh 1 kilo.
For every 1 kilo of worms you will need 1 kilo of food per day.
Usually 3 kilos of feed will yield 2 kilos of vermicast.
You may require as much as 250 kilos of vermicast per hectare, possibly more. In my experience you will need to apply this only once if you follow up with an annual spray of liquid castings. Once you have done your whole property, only good will result from repeat applications.
Remember that a worm system producing sufficient castings to cover any sort of acreage will need to be very large indeed and you will have to become a professional producer, taking as much trouble with it as you do with other aspects of your farming. If you follow the advice given in this book, you can’t go wrong.
Large Scale Vermiculture
While it may be a daunting prospect to consider treating all your land with castings, the results are such that if you care for the land and your profit column, you should begin the project as a matter of urgency. Once you have made a start, if you persevere you will ultimately arrive at the finish.
Research still needs to be done to discover a reasonably accurate level at which castings must be applied to restructure and rejuvenate soils. Even then the rate of application will vary From site to site. It will lie somewhere between 125 and 10,000 kilos per hectare since both of these levels have produced excellent results on a small scale. Unfortunately, this assessment has no scientific basis and gives an indication only. All it does is show that castings work. There is no one in Australia with experience or knowledge of broad acre application of vermicast at present. However, this is about to change, as properly structured trials have commenced.
Castings can be spread damp with a conventional fertiliser spreader, or you can mix them with water and spray them with a liquid-manure spreader. However it is done, castings must not be spread in direct sunlight and must be turned into the soil as quickly as possible.