Both of these processes involve the bio-oxidation of organic wastes resulting in a rich humus-like material. They both require oxygen for optimal performance. The "carbon to nitrogen ratio" (C: N ratio) is important in both, and plays an important role in determining the rate at which decomposition occurs.
Microbial metabolic action causes a heating (thermophilic) of the compost material. The amount of heat is dependent on the size of the heap, C:N ratio of the materials, moisture content, and aeration. During the heating stage, temperatures will ideally be in the 140F (60C) range, but will often be higher or lower.
Vermicomposting is somewhat similar to hot composting in that it involves the breakdown of organic wastes, but the major difference is that it involves the joint action of earthworms and microorganisms. Hot composting relies on just microbes.
Worm composting is a much cooler process (mesophilic) - working at 59-86F (15-30C). Organic material is continually added to the batch whereas hot composting usually involves a one-time pile up of materials on a heap.
The validity and credibility of vermicompost lies in the research that is being done by private companies and universities.
Listed are some of the extension publications available:
- Organic Transplant Media & Tomato Performance
- Compost for Biological Control of Pythium
- Cauliflower Transplant Production Using Organic Media, 2008
Here is an excellent online interview with Allison Jack, grad student at Cornell and avid vermicompost researcher:
For more information and references please see Bentley Christie and Red Worm Composting.com at the following:
- Inconsistent process controls result in variable quality end products. The variability occurs in the feed stocks and the microbial community.
- The heat can kill off many beneficial microbes and may lead to considerable nitrogen loss.
- The results become inconsistent.
- Incorporates an excellent and uniform process control (moisture, temperature, aeration, and substrate) which, in turn, produces a uniform product. The mesophilic process produces "plant-viable" microbial communities.
- The earthworm and microbial communities truly alter the nutrients (form) and the cooler temperatures help to conserve nitrogen.
- There is considerable academic evidence to indicate that vermicompost and vermicompost extracts have beneficial properties not found in hot composts. These beneficial properties include as insect and disease suppression capabilities.
Black Gold Vermicompost
- The Black Gold worms are all indoors and not subject to the stresses of climate conditions, predators, and temperature. The worms are in a climate controlled facility.
- All food waste is controlled which means the worms are given the best of food waste to process a premium casting.
- Using only food waste ensures that there are no pathogenic bacteria, weed seed, and/or root feeding nematodes that may be found in manure based vermicompost.
- We are the only facility with a vermiculture laboratory on-site. Every lot of vermicompost and "tea" extract is checked to make sure that the material meets with our strict microbiological, chemical, and nutrient standards.
- Our worms consume the feedstock multiple times to ensure that most of all organic matter is broken down. The result is a microbiological and nutrient rich coffee ground-like material.
- This material is similar to pure castings rather than vermicompost but we prefer the term "vermicompost" as there is usually a trace amount of organic matter still in the material.
- Our Chief Facility Operator is a professional chemist as well as a worm farmer. Other staff members include a microbiologist and a vermiculture scientist.