The earthworms “Staratel”
The company Green-PIK suggests gardeners, farmers and businessmen using the following technology of various organic waste products utilization with the help of elite industrial (composting) earthworms. The earthworms are cultivated in Professor A. M. Igonin’s laboratory by crossing earthworm species of two distant populations (the native Russian and the Kirghiz one) of the manure earthworm Eisenia fetida.
Earthworms appeared in the Precambrian era. A scientist Pearce and his colleagues (1990) gave a description of fossil earthworm embryos with the cell wall remained. They were found in the lower layers of the Late Bronze Age in Potter (Whiltshire, Great Britain).
The vermitechnological genus “earthworms” contains manure, brandling and other species of earthworms. Dogel (1975) considers them belonging to the brandling worm family (Lumbricidae), higher oligochaetes order (Lumbricomorpha), oligochaetes type (Îligochaeta), clitellates subtype (Clitellata), annelids type (Annelida), metazoan subkingdom, animal kingdom.
V. G. Matveeva, T. S. Perel (1982) divided the earthworms into three ecological groups:
·surface and compost dwellers (E.fetida, Dendroboena oktaedra, Lumbricus castaneus);
·soil-litter (Lumbricus rubellus, Eisenia nordenskioldi);
·burrow dwellers of the deep soil layers (Lumbricus terrestris, Dendroboena platura).
The earthworms “Staratel” belong to the manure earthworm species Eisenia fetida.
The earthworms “Staratel” can be cultivated indoors all the year round.
The main peculiarity of the earthworms is that they are used for more rapid and qualitative converting of different agricultural and industrial organic wastes (animal manure, bird dung, plant residuals, sewage sludge wastes, and food processing industry wastes) into vermicompost – a high-efficiency organic fertilizer. The fertilizer improves agrochemical properties, increases quality and yields of agricultural crops.
The main peculiarities of the earthworms “Staratel”
The earthworms “Staratel” are active at a far wide temperature range: +8 to +29°Ñ
The earthworms “Staratel” continue cocoon production even at the temperature from +8° to +10°Ñ.
The earthworms “Staratel” activity is especially high in the bedding.
Annually an earthworm “Staratel” produces 1500 offsprings and 100 kg of biohumus. You can get about 600 kg of biohumus and 10-15 kg of earthworms from 1 ton of compost.
But the main difference here is as follows. The earthworms “Staratel” easily eat this type of feeding or that. They are adapted to various nutritious beddings, i.e. to manure (cow, horse etc.), kitchen waste, sewage sludge, last year leaves, paper etc.
Even if the substrate density of occupation is rather high, the earthworms “Staratel” stay very viable and productive.
Frequent parasitological tests for the compost earthworms confirm the Professor A. M. Igonin’s conclusions that the earthworms are able to avoid themselves of animal and plant ascarids. It is possible then to feed chickens, hens, ducks, geese and pond fish with these earthworms. The earthworms “Staratel” is a perfect protein feed for these animals. It helps to spare other expensive feeds (like grain) and promotes high weight gain.
This earthworm species possesses distinctive features of shape and organization of the body.
The earthworm body is extended forward and has a round cross-section. The body consists of separate segments. The anterior head region is more thick, more muscular and darker in color. The posterior (tail) region is more thin and pale. The mouth opens on the anterior (head) region, and there is an anus in the tail region. Setae are arranged along the earthworm body. These are the earthworm movement organs. The bristles are almost invisible, but you can feel them, if you touch the earthworm from the posterior region to the anterior one.
The earthworm body is covered with an epithelium tissue. The epithelium tissue contains glandular and cambial cells. These cells exude bright, mucous membrane, which makes the earthworm skin smooth and promotes the easier earthworm body glide when it moves.
An adult species has a clitellum (a swelling). It is situated in the anterior part of the body, from 24 to 32 segments (on 7-9 segments). It serves for ootheca formation.
Earthworms are bisexual (hermaphrodites). But their reproduction requires copulation. An earthworm reproduces only by oviposition (cocoon production). Earthworm eggs are placed in the special egg cocoons. If the reproduction conditions are proper, egg cocoons are laid once in 5-7 days. Chekanovskaya believes that during copulation earthworms come into close contact in the region of their ventral parts. Their heads are turned to each other. The clittelum of one earthworm is opposite the spermatheca of the other. The clitellums of the two earthworms secretes mucus, which covers them as a tube. The male openings secrete sperm. It is transferred into the mucous tube and then into the other earthworm spermatheca. Then the earthworms separate. Oviposition and fertilization occur later when the spermatozoa develops. An earthworm has a mucous tube, which forms a cocoon. The cocoon contains an albuminous fluid, which serves for nurturing the earthworm embryos. A tube passes through the anterior region, and the fertilized germ cells get into it. Thus, the cocoon formation is complete (the cocoons continue to be formed).
A cocoon is an oval rough lemon-shaped capsule. The pigmentation of newly-laid capsules is light yellow, and that of mature capsules is brown. Their diameter is from 2 to 4 mm. According to the housing conditions of the earthworms there can be from 2 to 20 ova in the cocoon. The hatched young earthworms are 1mm long, and by the 6-7 days age their length is up to 4-7 mm. They are as thin as threads and have a clearly marked red spinal vessel. On leaving the cocoon they begin eating.
The earthworms’ circulatory system is closed. It consists of the 2 great (dorsal and ventral) blood vessels. Each segment has two large vessels associated with «blood» semi-rings. Annelids’ blood is red due to the substance in liquid blood (blood plasma) similar to the hemoglobin of the vertebral blood («hemocruorin»).
There are no specialized respiratory organs: most respiration is through the body surface. Thin cuticle and tender epidermis, rich network of small blood vessels allows earthworms to absorb oxygen from the environment. The cuticle is well wettable and oxygen is first dissolved in moisture. That is why the cuticle should be kept moist.
Wastes of digested food are excreted through an anus in the form of small granules – coprolites. Coprolites contain humic substances (humic acids and the salts – humates), which make the granules water-resistant, water-retaining, resistant to mechanical actions and improve soil structure, make it more fertile and air permeable. Besides, coprolites are the centers of microbiological activity of a wide range of soil flora, and the earthworm alimentary tract is the source of continuous replenishment of soil microflora by fresh microbe generations – the main consumers (destroyers) of dead plant and animal tissues, breaking them down into carbon dioxide and water in soil.
According to different sources, earthworms live from 4 to 16 years.
As practice suggests, earthworms that are cultivated do not have diseases and epidemics do not struck them. They can die only if the cultivation technology is not observed.
One of the main key-elements of vermitechnology is bedding preparation for composting earthworms. Systemic condition of earthworm populations, reproduction and biomass accumulation rate, properties, character and amount of coprolite depend on the bedding character, combination of its components and other factors.
The earthworms «Staratel» are cultivated and vermicompost is produced according to Green-PIK technology on the basis of farm-animal manure.
The bedding is twice important for earthworms: it is the environment they live and function in, and it is also food, providing their vital activity.
Unlike other worms in soil, composting worms are adapted to loose/crumby soil. Solid ground is an absolute obstacle for them. Besides, loose bedding provides good aeration, therefore creating optimal conditions for earthworm respiration. Environmental chemism including gas composition as well as temperature and moisture belong to highly important ecological conditions for earthworm cultivation.