Vermicompost and Coirpith Compost production

Composting is a biological process in which microorganisms decompose organic matter and lower the carbon-nitrogen ratio of the substrate. It is generally prepared from organic waste material such as crop residue, household waste etc.



Vermitechnology is a process by which all types of biodegradable wastes such as farm wastes, kitchen wastes, market wastes, biowastes of agro-based industries, livestock wastes etc. are converted to nutrient rich vermicompost by using earthworms as biological agents. Vermicompost contains major and minor nutrients in plant available forms as well as enzymes, vitamins and plant growth hormones. 

Species suitable: Eudrillus eugineae has been identified as the most ideal species of earthworm for vermitechnology. 

Vermicomposting of farm wastes

Pits of size 2.5 m length, 1 m breadth and 0.3 m depth are taken in thatched sheds with sides left open. The bottom and sides of the pit are made hard by compacting with a wooden mallet. At the bottom of the pit, a layer of coconut husk is spread with the concave side up to ensure drainage of excess water and also for proper aeration. The husk is moistened and above this, biowaste mixed with cowdung in the ratio of 8:1 is spread up to a height of 30 cm above the ground level and water is sprinkled daily. After the partial decomposition of wastes for 7 to 10 days, the worms are introduced @ 500 to 1000 numbers per pit. The pit is covered with coconut fronds. Moisture is maintained at 40 to 50 per cent. After around 60 to 75 days, when the compost is ready, it is removed from the pit along with the worms and heaped in shade. The worms will move to bottom of the heap. After one or two days the compost from the top of the heap is removed. The undecomposed residues and worms are returned to the pit for further composting as described above. The vermicompost produced has an average nutrient status of 1.5 per cent N, 0.4 per cent P2O5 and 1.8 per cent K2O with pH ranging from 7.0 to 8.0. The nutrient level will vary with the type of material used for composting. 


  1. The composting area should be provided with sufficient shade to protect it from direct sunlight.
  2. Adequate moisture level should be maintained by sprinkling water whenever necessary.
  3. Preventive measures should be adopted to ward off predatory birds, ants, rats, etc. 

Vermicomposting of coconut leaves

Weathered coconut leaves can be converted into good quality vermicompost in a period of three months with the help of earthworm, Eudrillus sp. On an average, 6-8 tonnes of leaves will yield 4-5 tonnes of vermicompost with about 1.2, 0.1 and 0.5 per cent N, P2O5 and K2O respectively. 

Vermicomposting of household wastes

A wooden box of 45 cm x 30 cm x 45 cm or an earthen/plastic container with broad base and drainage holes may be selected. A plastic sheet with small holes may be placed at the bottom of the box / container. A layer of soil of 3 cm depth and a layer of coconut fibre of 5 cm depth may be added above it for draining of excess moisture. A thin layer of compost and worms may be added above it. About 250 worms are sufficient for the box. Vegetable wastes of each day can be spread in layer over the coconut husk fibre. Top of the box may be covered with a piece of sac to provide dim light inside the box. When the box is full, it can be kept without disturbance for a week. When the compost is ready, the box can be kept outside for 2-3 hours so that the worms come down to the lower fibre layer. Compost from the top, may be removed, dried and sieved. The vermicompost produced has an average nutrient status of 1.8 per cent N, 1.9 per cent P2O5 and 1.6 per cent K2O, but composition will vary with the substrate used.

Methods of composting

The available residues in the farm are collected and stored till they form sufficient mass for compost making. A trench of suitable size, say, 4-6 m long, 2-3 m broad and 1-1.5 m deep is dug, the accumulated residues is well mixed, and spread in a layer of 30 cm in thickness, along the length of the trench. This layer is well moistened by sprinkling cowdung slurry and water over it. A second layer of identical thickness of the mixed residues is then spread over the first layer. The process is repeated till the heap rises to a height of 45 cm to 60 cm above ground level. The top is then covered with a thin layer of soil. After three months of decomposition, the mass is taken out of the trench and formed into a conical heap above the ground, moistened with water if necessary, and covered with soil. After one or two months, the manure will be ready for application in the field.

Preparation of Vermiwash

Method 1
The system consists of a plastic basin having a capacity of 20 litres, a plastic perforated wastepaper basket and a PVC pipe of 5 cm diameter and 30 cm length. The waste paper basket is covered with a nylon net and placed at the centre of the basin upside down. A hole is made at the bottom of the waste paper basket so that a PVC pipe of 5 cm diameter can be placed into the basin through the hole in such a way that one end of it touches the basin. The PVC pipe is perforated so that the leachate from the basin seeps through the wastepaper basket and collects in the PVC pipe, which can be siphoned out by a kerosene pump. The basin outside the wastepaper basket, is lined with a layer of brick pieces at the bottom and a 2-3 cm thick layer of coconut fibre of 2-3 cm placed above it. After moistening this, 2 kg worms (about 2000) are introduced into it and 4 kg kitchen waste is spread over it. After one week, the kitchen waste turns into a black well decomposed compost. Two litres of water is sprinkled over the compost containing worms. After 24 hours, the leachate collected in the PVC pipe is removed by siphoning. The collected leachate is called vermiwash, which is actually an extract of compost containing worms. This is used for soil application and foliar spray in different crops. Vermiwash is honey-brown in colour with a pH of 8.5 and N, P2O5 and K2O content 200, 70 and 1000 ppm respectively. For large scale collection of vermiwash, a cement tank of size 80 cm x 80 cm x 80 cm with a side tap is constructed. A layer of small brick pieces or gravel is placed at the bottom of the tank. Above it a layer of fibre of 3-4 cm thickness in placed. A definite quantity of biowaste (4 kg) is added to the system along with 2 kg of earthworms. After two weeks, the entire mass of biowaste will turn to brownish black compost. It is sprinkled with 2 litres of water. Vermiwash is collected through the side tap after 24 hours. Biowaste can again be added to the system and the process repeated.
Method 2

Mass multiplication of earthworms

Earthworms can be multiplied in 1:1 mixture of cowdung and decaying leaves in a cement tank or wooden box or plastic bucket with proper drainage facilities. The nucleus culture of earthworms is to be introduced into the above mixture at the rate of 50 numbers per 10 kg of organic wastes and properly mulched with dried grass, straw or wet gunny bag. The unit should be kept in shade. Sufficient moisture level should be maintained by occasional sprinkling of water. Within 1-2 months, the earthworms multiply 300 times, which can be used for largescale vermicomposting.

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Coirpith composting

Coirpith, is produced in large quantities as waste material of the coir industry. Every year, approximately 2.5 lakh tonnes of coirpith accumulate in Kerala as waste. Coirpith has wide C:N ratio and its lignin rich nature does not permit natural composting process as in other agricultural wastes. Mushrooms belonging to the genus Pleurotus have the capacity to degrade part of the cellulose and lignin present in coirpith by production of enzymes such as., cellulases and lactases, bringing down the C:N ratio as well as lignin content. 

Method of composting

Materials required: Coirpith 1 tonne, urea 5 kg, mushroom (Pleurotus) spawn 1.5 kg. 

A shaded place of 5 m x 3 m dimension may be selected and levelled after removing weeds. 100 kg coirpith may be spread uniformly. Spread 300 g (one bottle or cover) of Pleurotus spawn on this and cover with a second layer of 100 kg coirpith. On the surface of the second layer, spread 1 kg urea uniformly. Repeat this sandwiching process of one layer of coirpith with spawn followed by another layer of coirpith with urea up to 1 m height. Sprinkle water if necessary to keep the heap moist. Allow the heap to decompose for one month. 

The coirpith is converted into good manure after 30-40 days and the lignin content is reduced from 30 per cent to 40 per cent. Another significant change is the lowering down of C: N ratio from 112:1 to 24:1. 

This coirpith compost contains macronutrients as well as micronutrients. It has the unique property of absorbing and retaining moisture to about 500-600 per cent. It improves the water infiltration rate and hydraulic conductivity of soil.

Waste management technology for household using composting inoculum

In earthen pots

Select earthen pots of large size. Close the hole with cement. The bottom of the pot is filled with one-inch layer of coir pith. Add kitchen waste and food waste to the pot.

Sprinkle composting inoculum on the waste @ 1%. Always keep closed with a lid. The above process is repeated daily until the pot is filled. The compost obtained can be used as inoculum for the next cycle. It has a nutrient status of 0.61-3.62 % N, 0.01 -0.36 % P and 0.21-4.73 % K. The conversion rate for 1 kg is 0.458 kg and the dosage are 1% (10 g per kg waste).

Smart bio-bin

Kitchen waste can be composted using bio-bin made of stainless steel. Kitchen waste and dry leaves/coir pith are laid as alternate layers in the bin.

A little quantity of composting inoculum, diluted with water in the ratio 1:4, may be sprinkled on top of the waste. Compost is obtained after 60 days.

Agricultural residues Compost

Agricultural residues/municipal solid wastes can be composted in units. These units are ferrocement bins of 4 x 4 x 4 feet, protected from the rain. Three layers of 6-inch thickness of cow dung, dry leaves and bio solid wastes are added. Layering with cow dung, dry leaves and bio solid wastes is continued till the unit gets filled. Composting inoculum can be used as a substitute for cow dung. 250 ml of inoculum, diluted with water in the ratio of 1:4 may be sprinkled above each layer of dry leaves. Compost is obtained after three months period.

Enriched compost production technology

The enriched compost with high manurial value can be prepared by adding biotic (microorganisms, green manure plants, azolla etc.) and abiotic materials (natural material s like rock dust, oil cakes, bone meal, rock phosphate etc.) to the bio waste during composting. The manurial value of the enriched manure varies depending upon the proportion of additives used for enriching.