Current Research Underway
1. Storage of vermicomposts and vermicomposts 'teas' : Changes in microbial and chemical characteristics are being followed over a year in open and closed containers.
2. Mechanisms of vermicompost activity: Vermicomposts are being analyzed for humates, fulvates, auxins, kinetins, and cytokinins that act as plant-growth regulators.
3. Effects of humates extracted from vermicomposts on plant growth:
a. A range of concentrations of humates extracted from different commercial vermicomposts is being tested on the growth of tomatoes, peppers, petunias, marigolds, strawberries, and other crops
b. The effects of humates and auxins from commercial sources, separate and combined, are being compared with the effects of aqueous extracts and humates on growth of peppers, petunias, tomatoes, cucumbers, and other crops.
4. Residual effects of vermicomposts: Cabbage grown from seeds in vermicompost plugs are being transplanted into growth media with no vermicompost in the field and their growth is being compared with those grown in commercial plugs.
5. Field experiments with vermicomposts: Tomatoes, peppers, petunias, strawberries, and grapes are being grown in field experiments with either inorganic fertilizer or different application rates of commercial vermicomposts, balanced to equal the nutrients in the inorganic fertilizer. Germination growth, flowering, yields, and microbiological and chemical measurements on soils and plants are made.
6. Greenhouse and field experiments on suppression of plant diseases, plant parasitic nematodes, and arthropod pests:
a. The suppression of aphids, red spider mites, mealy bugs, cabbage caterpillars, tomato hornworms, Spodoptera caterpillars, cucumber beetles and squash bugs is being studied in greenhouse and field experiments.
b. The suppressin of the plant parasitic nematodes Meloidogyne sp., Heterodera glycine, Pratylenchus sp., Xiphinema sp., and Gracilus sp. by vermicomposts is being studied in greenhouse and field experiments.
c. The suppression of the diseases Phytophthora, Pseudomonas syringae, Pythium sp., Rhizoctonia and Verticillium wilt by vermicomposts is being studied in field and greenhouse experiments.
7. Suppression of weed seeds during vermicomposting: The suppression of weed and fruit seed germination, during vermicomposting, in boxes in the laboratory and mini-continuous flow reactors, is being followed, and the vermicompost produced is tested in the greenhouse for weed incidence.
8. Reduction of human pathogens during vermicomposting: The reductions in populations of fecal coliform bacteria (including E. coli), Salmonella spp., enteric viruses and helminth ova are being followed in windrows, wedge systems, and mini-continuous flow vermicomposting reactors. The aim is to reach an EPA Class A level by vermicomposting.
9. Aqueous extracts of vermicomposts (or vermicompost 'teas'): The effects of aqueous extracts of vermicomposts ('teas') on plant germination, growth and yields is being followed in greenhouse and field experiments.
10. Greenhouse experiments on suppression of plant pathogens, plant parasitic nematodes and arthropod pests by vermicompost 'teas': The use of 'teas' as soil drenches and foliar sprays are being studies, focusing particularly on tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce.