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Worm That Turned... Poo

Worm That Turned... Poo

By Helen Potter

A quick question - what are worms good for? If you answered 'the soil' or some such variant, congratulations you were until recently ahead of some agricultural engineers.

When faced with the problem of dealing with excessive amounts of cow manure (and with the average cow producing 45.3 kg per day it is excessive) on dairy farms, Tom Herlihy came up with the idea of using worms to turn the excrement back into compost. Obviously this process is much more scientific than simply leaving the worms to it and is referred to as vermicomposting. Indeed Herlihy's company RT Solutions uses 8 million earthworms to convert manure into an all organic, environmentally-friendly fertilizer called Worm Power (no, we're really not making this up).

The manure is heat-treated to destroy any weed seeds and potential pathogens, then red worms are added to digest the organic waste and leave behind casings of usable soil. Red worms are normally 25 to 105 mm in length and occur naturally in soils high in dung throughout North America and Europe. One pound of red worms can digest half a pound of organic matter per day. In approximately 60 days, Herlihy's facility can convert 600,000 kg of raw manure into usable vermicompost.

Our quick guide to making poo pay.
According to Mr Herlihy, the final product has the look and feel of dark coffee grounds and a (unsurprisingly) pleasant, earthy smell. The finished fertilizer apparently enriches the biological, physical and chemical properties of the soil and improves plant development and root growth.

Worm power indeed.

You can purchase Worm Power products directly from WormPower.net. That's Christmas sorted - my brother will be thrilled. If you need other ideas for Christmas you can try our gadget shop.

Get more from Helen or try out these links:

- Spoof - Fake tanning's perils
- Advice - Try the Justice Diet
- Interesting - 'No fear' pill on the way
- Hooray! - Chocolate is good for you!

Your Say

Cows really produce that much poo? That's nearly a whole person! Well, it's at least a very small person.
Snappy-snappy the tiny trucker

Title image: Craig Jewell; Diagram cow: Wouter van den Berg

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07 Sep 2009
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