Recycling of environmentally problematic plant wastes generated from greenhouse tomato crops through vermicomposting|
Fernández-Gómez, M.J.; Dı´az-Ravin˜a, M.; Romero, E. & Nogales, R.
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 ~ 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.
Biostabilization; Eisenia fetida earthworms; Enzyme activity; Microbial phospholipid fatty acids; Paper-mill sludge