A recently-released study from an international group of scientists and researchers (link to PDF) shows that vermicompost (compost produced by worms) not only improves crop productivity, but actively fights fungal attacks that can destroy harvests. This is great news, not only for organic farmers, but also home gardeners who are looking to boost their harvest and prevent fungal outbreaks without using harmful synthetic fungicides and fertilizers.
Their scientific conclusion:
"The application of vermicomposting to agricultural land increases productivity by a multifaceted impact on soil health and crops, facilitating nutrient enrichment and preventing pathogen development. Vermicompost and its derivatives, such as vermiwash [liquid extract produced from earthworm-rich vermicompost], along with associated decomposer bacteria, act against fungal pathogens. The antifungal efficacy of vermicompost may be associated with bioactive compounds present in the CF [coelomic fluid], mucus, skin secretion of earthworms and metabolites secreted by decomposer bacteria. The CF of earthworms has an inherent ability to defend worms against diseases. It inhibits the growth of a variety of fungal pathogens, such as Rhizoctonia solani, Alternaria solani, Aspergillus niger, A. flavus, Fusarium oxysporum, and F. graminearum. The metabolites from vermicomposting bacteria, CF, mucus, and skin secretion synergistically combat phytopathogenic fungi. As an organic product, vermicompost and its derivatives are environmentally friendly. Thus, these products should be used to boost agricultural productivity by nutrient enrichment and reduction of plant fungal diseases."
The layperson's summary:
Worms which break down organic matter have to be able to fight off harmful bacterial and fungal pathogens in the soil, so they secrete fluids from their bodies to do this. These fluids are also present in the vermicompost (their poop) that we apply to the soil in our pots and gardens. Therefore the study shows that because of the composting worms' fluids present in the vermicompost, their vermicompost also acts as an antifungal agent for your plants.
To order Living Worm Compost for your garden and potted plants, click here.
Steve & Corey Veldheer are organic yard & garden specialists in west Michigan.