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CHAPTER 4

EARTHWORMS

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 Earthworm
body works as a bio filter which broadens the bacterial metabolism by growing
their population. It also grinds, aerate, crush, degrade the chemical and act
as genetic stimulator. Microscopic and vermi processes will instantaneously
work by treating the wastewater using earthworms. Effluent resulted will be enormously
rich in nutrition and can be reused as earthworms are adaptable waste water
eaters and decomposers. Earthworms have over 600 million years of
experience as ecosystem engineers. Vermiculture experts all over the world knew
about the role of earthworms as waste managers, as soil managers &
fertility reformers and plant growing agents for a long time. But nowadays they
are used in waste water treatment and contaminated soil remediation. 4

4.1 GENERAL
CHARACTERISTICS OF EARTH-WORMS

Earthworms are long, narrow, cylindrical,
bilaterally symmetrical, segmented animals having without bones. The body is
dark brown, glistening, and covered with delicate cuticle.

Usually the life span of an earthworm is about 3–7
years, depending upon the type of species and the ecological situation.
Earthworms harbour millions of nitrogen fixing and decomposer microbes in their
gut.3

They have chemoreceptors which aid in search of
food. Their body contains  65%  protein 
(contains  70–80%  high 
quality  lysine  rich 
protein),  14%  fats, 
14%  carbohydrates,  and  3%  ashes. Earthworms are commonly inattentive or
rare in soil with a very granular texture and high clay content or soil with
pH<4.5  Earthworms are also forbearing to moderate salt salinity in soil, but some species like the tiger worms (Eisenia Fetida) has been found to be highly salt accepting and resistive towards chemicals.4 4.1.1 ECOLOGY AND BIOLOGY OF EARTHWORMS Earthworms can also bear poisonous chemicals in the environment. As worms breathe through their skin appropriate ventilation of air in soil medium is essential. They can endure a temperature range between 50 and 290 °C. A temperature of 200–250 °C and moisture of 60–75 % are optimum for best worm function. Generally earthworms can also allow extensive water loss by dehydration.10  Earthworms are bisexual animals and multiply very quickly. After copulation each worm ejects lemon-shaped 'cocoon' where sperms enter to fertilize the eggs. Studies shows that they twice their number at least every 60 –70 days. Given the optimal conditions of moisture, temperature, and nurturing materials earthworms can multiply by 28, i.e. 256 worms every 6 months from a single separate. The total life cycle of the worms is about 220 days. Red worms take only 4–6 weeks to become sexually mature.10 They have been informed to bio-accumulate them in their materials and either biodegrade or bio transform them into bland products with the benefit often enzymes. They have also been testified to host microbes in their instinctive which can biodegrade chemicals.5 4.1.2 ECONOMIC SIGNIFICANCE Earthworms can substantially handle most organic waste water and possibly at a portion of the cost of conservative methods of wastewater treatment.4  Vermiculture technology by earthworms is a self-promoted, self-regulated, self-improved, self-driven, self-Powered and self-enhanced, very low energy and less chemical necessitating zero waste technology, easy to make, operate and maintain.4 Any Vermiculture technology involves about 100-1000 times higher 'value addition' than other biological technologies. It has less operational cost since it requires energy only for pumping of waste and no skilled labour. Maintenance costs also minimal as it does not involve any mechanical devices.4 4.1.3 MECHANISM OF EARTHWORMS Earthworms are multipurpose waste eaters and decomposers. It stimulates the growth of advantageous decomposer bacteria in waste water and acts as an aerator, grinder, crusher, chemical degrades and a biological stimulator.2 The two processes-microbial processes and vermin-process simultaneously work in the Vermifiltration system. Earthworms further  stimulate  and  accelerate  microbial  activity  by  increasing the  population of  soil  microorganisms and  also  through improving aeration by burrowing action.2 Earthworms host millions of decomposer microorganisms in their instinctive and excreta called vermicast. The nutrients N and P are further used by the microorganisms for increase and improved action.6 4.1.4 SYNERGISTIC ACTION OF ENZYMES, MICRO ORGANISMS AND EARTHWORMS IN VERMIFILTRATION The role of various types of enzymes, microorganisms, and earthworms for effluent treatments has been studied. The studies established that enzymes can act on precise unmanageable contaminants to eliminate them by precipitation or transformation to other products. They can also change the features of a given effluent to extract it more co-operative to treatment or utility in transforming waste material to valuable products.7 4.2 IMPORTANCE OF EARTHWORMS IN VERMIFILTRATION Organic matter degraded by microorganisms was stimulate digested by clusters of earthworms living in bedding material. Various actinomycetes occupying the earthworm's guts also generated degradation of solid contents.5 Earthworms and microorganisms collaborate in Vermi Filter swallows and biodegrade organic wastes and other containments in waste water.  This prolongs the food chain in normal bio-processes and thus significantly improves sewage treatment efficiency.4 Earthworms rise the hydraulic conductivity and natural aeration by crushing clay particles. They also grind silt and sand particles, growing the total surface area, which improves the capability to adsorb organic and inorganic from waste water.2  Intensification of soil processes and aeration by earthworms permit the stabilization of soil and the filtration system to become effective and smaller in size.3         4.3 POTENTIAL APPLICATION OF EARTHWORMS IN WASTE-WATER TREATMENT Investigators done many tests into arena of waste water management technologies and found that Fetida earthworms are effective for treatment of waste water and have adequately treated wastewater from various activities. Earth worms are vigorous tillers of our earths and their forming are richest and best of all fertilizers. They are very useful in treatment of waste water.6 They are also beneficial for handling of waste water from industries as well as domestic and residential sewage. They stabilized organic matter and transformed to stable product. Among all earthworms E. Fetida is finest appropriate for treatment of waste water from fields.3  

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