The production of vermicompost from dairy sludge and its value as a plant growth medium
Dairy sludge generated at Glanbia Ingredients Ltd., Kilkenny has up until now been landspread. This study investigated the feasibility of using earthworms to vermicompost the sludge as an alternative method of treatment. It was found that high levels of ammonia in the sludge led to earthworm fatality but that by manually aerating the sludge the ammonia could be volatilised or by adding zeolite the ammonia could be absorbed, thus solving the problem. In a medium scale trial, the earthworm species Dendrobaena veneta and Eisenia fetida dominated the polyculture. Earthworms grew and generated cocoons during vermicomposting. During vermicomposting no leachate was generated. Nutrient changes took place during vermicomposting. There were high levels of nitrate, increased calcium and sulphate in the vermicomposted dairy sludge. The amount of magnesium, potassium and chloride did not change, while phosphate was undetectable after vermicomposting. The levels of nitrate and phosphate were good indicators of the extent of vermicomposting. The vermicomposted dairy sludge provided improved growth and yields of radishes and barley compared to the dairy sludge and control. Compared to the vermicompost, the dairy sludge provided heavier ryegrass yields and more marigolds with larger flower diameters. Generally, it is the amount of phosphate in dairy sludge that dictates how much can be applied as a fertiliser on land. Vermicomposting reduced the amount of phosphate to an undetectable level but on the other hand created a problem of high nitrate levels. In a pot trial with grass grown in vermicompost the nitrate leached from the vermicompost. In field conditions the leaching of nitrate might occur and could cause an increased risk of contamination of groundwater and watercourses.
- Theses - Science ITS 
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