PhD research: Holistic assessment of the potential of indigenous earthworm species for vermicomposting and improving soil and plant health in Ethiopia

Date
October 2018 to September 2022
Countries
Keywords
indigenous earthworms
vermicompost
organic waste
root-knot nematodes
microbes
Institutions
Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) (Ethiopia)
Research fields
Agriculture and Food Sciences

Vermicomposting is a process that converts organic wastes into a high quality humus like bio-fertilizer (vermicompost) by the combined activity of earthworms and microorganisms. Vermicomposting have been considered as a suitable technology for developing countries, especially at the household and community level as it is a simple and natural technology that does not require sophisticated machinery, high capital investment, and frequent process monitoring. Unlike some other developing countries, there is very limited information and experience regarding vermicomposting under Ethiopian local conditions. While the existing information and experiences have laid some ground in introducing the vermicomposting technology to specific parts of the country, the following gaps still need further investigation. Firstly, these studies were primarily conducted using a single exotic species of earthworms imported from temperate regions (Europe and Canada), and no data is available on isolating and testing of the potential of local species. Secondly, the feedstock tested was mainly using municipal wastes, which are not easily accessible to small-scale farmers. Thirdly and most importantly, these studies focused on characterization of the vermicompost often without testing the actual effect on plant growth and soil function.
The current project aims to contribute to fill these gaps through holistic approach and scientific assessment of the potential of indigenous species of earthworms in degrading locally available organic wastes, the impacts of the vermicompost on nutrient availability, soil quality, plant growth and disease suppressiveness. Tomato plant is selected as a potential test crop in this context as it is widely grown by small-scale farmers both as a source of household food consumption and income. Therefore, the general objectives of the study are: i) to fill gaps through holistic approach and scientific assessment of potential indigenous earthworm species in degrading locally available organic wastes and ii) to asses the impacts of the vermicompost produced on nutrient availability, soil quality, plant growth and disease suppressiveness will be investigated. To achieve the above mentioned objectives, a number of activities will be conducted using the expertise, facilities and resources at home institute (Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, EIAR) and UGent.