Today I did a microscope assessment on some vermicompost from Backyard Farmer, a small gardening supply business in Eugene, Oregon. They do not sell their vermicompost but was curious as to what kind of soil biology is going on with it.
First off, this vermicompost was not sieved and not dried to 50% moisture levels as we got some straight from the worm bin. We were told to let dry a bit so I left lid on loose for a couple of weeks and that did the trick. Weeks later this Vermicompost still had ample of worms, smelled great and had perfect water moisture.
Using the Microscope I will observe microorganisms from the vermicompost. I need to quantify the amount of aerobic and anaerobic organisms in order to determine biomasses and ratios of aerobic, facultative and anerobic organisms. This will also help determine the kind of nutrient cycling going on with this vermicompost and if there are organisms in this vermicompost that I can benefit from (or not) by using this vermicompost.
First, I started with a Nematode Scan after preparing my slide.
- I found 3 bacterial nematodes!
Then I needed to do my Main Assessment. For my main assessment I was looking for filamentous organisms (actinobacteria, fungi and oomycetes) and protozoas (flagellates, amoebas and ciliates).
Afterwards, I did a bacterial reading.
This was probably the best compost I have tested since getting a microscope and using it. LOTS of Testate Amoebas and fungi!
I will try to explain in layman's terms. WE need the standard deviation to be 70% or lower in order to considered the biomasses and counts to be accurate enough to quantify.
The Bacteria Biomass was pretty decent but that is the easy part. Though I will note no anaerobic bacterias were found and the standard deviation is around 23%.
Unfortunately at just above 100% standard deviation, the Fungi biomass numbers were not reliable. But this vermicompost did have 100x more Fungi and diversity I have yet to see in any compost or soil since starting the microscope journey 3-4 months ago!
The Actino bacteria, if you are growing fruiting/productive row crops, ie not kale or mustard greens for example, is not really desired as it will discourage mycorrhizal and fungi growth. The Standard deviation here was above 70% and not a reliable biomass number to quantify.
The protozoa counts were pretty nice! Lots of testate amoebas and flagellates. The standard deviation around 69% and can be used as a reliable biomass number to quantify in the vermicompost tested. They love to eat bacteria and poop out there nutrients near the root zone!
600 bacteria feeding nematodes per gram of compost??? AMAZING! So we have higher level microorganisms eating lower microorganisms! We have nutrient cycling going on here my friends!
Thankfully the oomycetes had a high standard deviation. They are or can be pathogenetic/ anaerobic fungi who are opportunistic and not something we necessarily want in our soils/compost.
Great nutrient cycling is going here. The fungi numbers are pretty close to being reliable. The fungi was diverse too!
I might suggest to Backyard Farmer to make this compost have more fungi/grow larger by feeding the worms more fungi foods. Also, they should be looking into how worm compost producers sieve and dry their final product in order to prevent anaerobic conditions.
This vermicompost is bad ass! I can not wait to use it in the garden!