Recycling of environmentally problematic plant wastes generated from greenhouse tomato crops through vermicomposting

  • Fernández-Gómez M
  • Díaz-Raviña M
  • Romero E
 et al. 
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Abstract

The enormous quantity of plant waste produced from greenhouse tomato
crops is an environmental problem that should be solved by recycling
that waste into valuable organic products through low-cost technologies,
such as vermicomposting. Feasibility of vermicomposting greenhouse
tomato-plant waste (P) using paper-mill sludge (S) as complementary
waste was investigated by this study. Earthworm development in P, S, and
two mixtures of both wastes was monitored over 24 weeks and compared
with that in cow dung (D), an optimum organic-waste to be
vermicomposted. The effectiveness of vermicomposting to biostabilize
those wastes was assessed by analysing phospholipid fatty acid
composition, chemical features, plant-nutrient content, metal
concentration, enzyme activities, and germination index (GI). A
commercial vermicompost was also analyzed and taken as a reference of
vermicompost quality. Earthworms did not survive in P alone, but a
mixture of P with S at a ratio of 2:1 or 1:1 resulted in earthworm
development similar to that observed in D. Phospholipid fatty acid
analysis revealed that earthworm activity strongly transformed initial
microbiota inhabiting the wastes, giving rise to vermicompost microbial
communities which were similar to that of a commercial vermicompost.
Both mixtures of P and S were properly biostabilized through
vermicomposting, as indicated by decreases in their C:N ratio and enzyme
activities together with increases in their degree of maturity (GI
similar to 100 %) after the process. This study demonstrates that the
vermicomposting of tomato-plant waste together with paper-mill sludge
allows the recycling of both wastes, thereby improving the environmental
sustainability of greenhouse crops.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Biostabilization
  • Eisenia fetida earthworms
  • Enzyme activity
  • Microbial phospholipid fatty acids
  • Paper-mill sludge

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