In order for our planet to maintain long-term and sustainable development; it is important to maintain a 'triple' balance. And only through this tri-parte balance, can our children continue to enjoy the Earth’s clear blue skies and crystal clear waters. On the contrary, losing this balance will definitely accelerate mankind’s terrible doom.
Earthworm has existed on Earth for a few million years. According to scientist, its role has the most profound impact on agriculture and human live; incomparable with the mobile phone technology or the invention of Google search engine. Sadly, the general perception of an earthworm is that of a mere 10 centimeters creature used as fishing bait. Although the general public is also aware of earthworm’s role in promoting and enriching soil conditions; providing value-added soil nutrient materials that are conducive to plant growth, ecological science and research on earthworm is still very much confined to some science textbooks.
Earthworms are hermaphrodite. Each worm has 2 to 4 pairs of male and female genitalia. However, there must be at least two worms in order for sperm exchange to occur. Generally, earthworms grew within 2 to 3 months before sexual maturation. An adult worm can reproduce between 10 to 12 times a year. Consequently, an equivalent of 100 adult /mature earthworms can generate between 2000 - 5000 offspring. The life-span of an earthworm is roughly about less than five years. However, a record-breaking ‘super-decade’ old earthworm was set in Japan with unresolved age measurement methodology.
In many developed countries such as the United States, Japan, Canada, UK, Germany and Austria; scientist /farmers focused their research work on earthworm reproduction and its farming applications. Earthworm usage is not limited to high-protein feed, medicine, treatment of infertile soil and pollutant elimination. It can also sustain the ecological environment through re-cycling organic matters that is essential to the balance of all living forms existing in the natural world. Such ecological balance provides significant contribution to the existence and health in biodiversity. For symbiotic organism such as earthworms, with distribution over a widespread geography, ease in mass reproduction and wide usage; there is further need to conduct vigorously research and development.
In recent years, the presence of harmful substance and drug residues in the livestock and poultry industries have been traced to drug abuse and feed additives in animal feed. The micro-ecological imbalance in livestock has reached a critical point. Both phenomena can be detrimental to consumer’s health as well as threatening agriculture export to the international market.
Earthworm has been regarded as the best animal protein feed with its high nutritional value content. Analysis has confirmed the presence of various amino acids, minerals and vitamins in significant concentration. Experimental tests has also shown that animal feed with added protein additives derived from earthworm can speed-up growth between 30% - 100% as well as increasing egg production in poultry related industries. Inclusive additives into pig’s feed has also been shown to increase its weight aside from yielding tastier and tender meat. In addition, it can also enhance pig’s resistance towards a host of diseases.
Earthworm plays a major role in aquaculture as well. In certain aquaculture field, the survival rate of fish fry was greatly reduced due to the general practice of chemical additives in product feed. This ineffective practice creates unnecessary wastage and led to a drain in natural resources aside from environmental pollution. Using earthworm as feed increases the survival rate of fish fry and their reproduction upon maturation. In addition, the majority of aquatic life forms are carnivorous in nature. Although fish farmers have experimented with a variety of manufactured materials for obtaining the right mixture of feed to yield satisfactory results; its resistance against a host of diseases was frequently observed. The combination of high costs in operation and maintenance are forcing fish farmers to seek more viable options.
In agriculture, large scale studies confirmed the utilization of earthworm (Oligchaeta) manure resulted in fertile and well-aerated farmland soil; promoting a healthy and well-developed rooting system. The Ministry of Agriculture’s Fertilizer Quality Control Center conducted analysis on earthworm excrement; the results showed the characteristics of consistent texture, hygienic and odorless with water retention capability up to 3 times the of average soil. NKP content were between 1% - 1.4%, including 17 types of amino acid, 42.2% organic matters, 25.5% humus, as well as beneficial bacteria at 2 X 105 - 8 /gram. Earthworm manure utilization in the cultivation of rice, vegetables, fruits, tea, flowers and landscaping grass also recorded higher yields and resistance towards harmful bacteria. In addition to containing a large number of organic matters, it promotes absorption and increase permeability of the soil. The ability in content retention and release allows long-term soil nutrient provision; thus, ensuring sustainable farming and crop’s robust growth for commercial cultivation.
In summary, research and development in utilization of earthworms has sprouted in the following areas:
In many ways, there is still room for potential development.
- Usage of elements derived from earthworms for traditional Chinese medicine products.
- Usage of elements derived from earthworms in manufacturing health related products.
- Usage of elements derived from earthworms in raw material and feed additives.
- The usage of earthworms for municipal solid waste treatment and environmental improvements.
- High-quality protein food for fish, chickens, ducks, pigs and other livestock feed.
- Earthworm manure is also an organic fertilizer for landscaping and fruit cultivation.