Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Vermi-Composting of Food Wastes from Campus Cafeteria for Tomato Production.

Marc Zucco, Alan Walters, S.K. Chong, Brian Klubek, Terry Wyciskalla, and Andilee Warner. Dept of Plant, Soil and Agricultural Systems, Southern Illinois Univ, Carbondale, IL 62901

During the 2003-2004 school year, it was estimated that ~78,320 kg of food waste was generated from the student dining facilities at SIUC. In the past, the food waste was separated and ground, followed by moisture extraction producing a dry organic pulp. The pulp was eventually sent to the landfill. This research intends to utilize the food waste pulp to feed earthworms to produce castings as an alternate nutrient source, especially nitrogen, for vegetable crop production. By doing this, the main goal is to save landfill space and to reduce the use of inorganic fertilizers. The experiment was conducted in the greenhouse and ‘Mountain Fresh’ tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) was used as the test crop. The main objectives were (1) to identify the optimum application rate of earthworm castings (EC) for tomato growth, and (2) to compare tomato yield under different treatments. Three different textural soils, namely sandy soil, silt loam and clayey soil were included in the evaluation. The experiment was conducted under a randomized complete block design with seven treatments, and four replications per treatment. The treatments were soil mix with (1) 0 g g-1 earthworm castings application (EC) + no fertilizer (control); (2) 0 g g-1 EC with 35 kg/ha of 12-12-12 complete fertilizer; (3) 0.05 g g-1  EC; (4) 0.10 g g-1  EC; (5) 0.20 g g-1 EC; (6) 0.40 g g-1 EC; and (7) 0.80 g g-1 EC. Preliminary results indicate that tomato responds well on soil mix with high EC application particularly for the loamy and clayey soils.