­The Good Earth of Nestor Salvador

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EVEN THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE is now advocating organic fertilizers. As direct proof, at noon today, 30 April 2014, in Asingan, Pangasinan, I witnessed 29 farmers in Barangay Dupac graduate from a "Farmer Field School on Sustainable Agriculture with (Emphasis) on PalayCheck." The graduation ceremony even had a theme: "Learning, checking and sharing for the best farming practice."

If you ask me, what is more important to learn there is not PalayCheck but Sustainable Agriculture, because you can be perfect in checking out important technological landmarks (ü), and yet fail if you cannot sustain your family from your farming.

So, what is the best farming practice? If I have to choose one, it's organic farming. Necessary in sustainable agriculture are organic fertilizers, which are inexpensive and effective, not inorganic fertilizers, which are many times more expensive and less effective. The organic fertilizer that I'm interested in right now is called worm manure, worm cast, vermicast, or vermicompost – they all refer to the same thing, all coming from earthworms.

In the photo, Maricris is touching what I call The Good Earth, the brownish pile produced by African night crawlers (an imported earthworm species) in the farm managed by Nestor in Asingan; Maricris is one of his assistants. Vermicast is brownish because it is rich in plant nutrients. It could be the best fertilizer for your rice, corn, tobacco, peanut, sweet sorghum, pigeon pea, or vegetable farm anywhere you are in the Philippines.

And you know what? What we know about vermiculture is what we learned from a fellow Filipino (& Ilocano) by the name of Rafael Guerrero. Yes, a Filipino scientist has been teaching Asians, including the Chinese, about vermiculture since 1981, or for the last 33 years now.

The vermicast, which is the manure from the vermin (from the Latin word for worm), is truly The Good Earth, as it gives the following 13 benefits:

(1)     It increases yields.

(2)     It's an odorless fertilizer.

(3)     It's rich in plant nutrients.

(4)     It corrects the pH of your soil.

(5)     It promotes early germination of seeds.

(6)     It helps transform your garbage into wealth.

(7)     It increases the plant's resistance to disease.

(8)     It's not washed out with irrigation water or rain.

(9)     It retains enough soil moisture even in a drought.

(10) It increases the water-holding capacity of the soil.

(11) It's safe – no chemicals, no steroids, no antibiotics.

(12) It improves soil structure, porosity, aeration, and drainage.

(13) It's 4 times cheaper than inorganic fertilizer, with more nutrients per bag.

If you're worried about your nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, know that the vermicast contains 5-11 times more NPK than normal soil (Steve, 04 January 2011, ncwormfarm.com).

When German scientist Otto Graff introduced Rafael Guerrero to the African night crawler, Eudrilus eugeniae, he experimented with this species and found it to be the best for the purpose. That's why we prefer the ANC earthworm for vermiculture today.

It's actually the bacteria and fungi and other small organisms that break down dead matter first. "Earthworms perform the final task of humification – the conversion of decomposed organic matter to stable humus colloids – and mix the humus with material from the lower soil horizons" (McGill U, eap.mcgill.ca). Translation: The earthworm ingests the humus and out comes the worm manure.

If you need cheap vermicast in bulk, if you farm in Central Luzon and whatever your crop is, you may want to order from Nestor Salvador. I visited his vermiculture setup last week, I was impressed with what he has learned and what he can now produce:

(a)     You don't need to build a rain shelter for the earthworms; all you need is a layer of leaves to protect the worms and the whole setup from heavy rains.

(b)      Nestor can produce 200 bags of vermicast in 60 days, ready to apply. If you need more, you can ask for more. You can of course make your own vermicompost and grow your own earthworms. To answer your questions or for more details, contact Nestor through Ms Maricris Espiritu, 0918-237-6744. I know they know.

Somebody else, also from Asingan, told me you can feed the worms to ducks and they will give you surprisingly many more eggs. What are worms made of? Protein, essential amino acids, fats, vitamins, and minerals good for livestock and fish also (cropsreview.com). Another kind of The Good Earth. – By Frank A Hilario, 30 April 2014

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