Indoors and Outdoors Vermiculture-Vermicomposting of Tea Leaves Waste Using Red Wigglers

This article is to honor my first team in large-scale vermicomposting of the tea leaves waste using compost worms or red wigglers (Eisenia andrei and Eisenia fetida) in Java 25 years ago (1996 – 1998). The simple vermiculture technology was used in the windrow either in wedge or batch methods. The bottom of the floors was installed with blowers to keep the bedding breezy and spraying water was needed during the hot and dry seasons. Harvesting and separating the worms and the worm castings including the worm cocoons were done using worms and castings harvester.

There were worm stocks for the vermiculture started from worm cocoons, juveniles, and adult worms in the laboratory. The reasons of having vermiculture stock was for supplying the vermicomposting activities (as a part of waste management) and for doing trials of the life cycle of the red wigglers using different feedstocks available at the location such as paper waste from the office and production of making tea drink, jasmine flowers waste (after the flowers used overnight to create the aroma of the tea drink), and other potential organic wastes from the garden and kitchen.

Explanation of the photos (from left top-bottom and right top-bottom):

About 1 ton of wet tea leaves waste was produced per day. The tea leaves were produced after boiling to make tea drink in the bottle. The tea leaves waste was then pressed using a hydraulic press to reduce the water content to about 80%.  

Pre-composted or fermented tea leaves waste were used as the main feedstock of the red wigglers with the initial density about 1 kilogram of worms per square meter. In addition, thermophilic composting was used for the mixture to support the vermicompost production.

First grade fresh worm castings, worms and worm cocoons were separated using a worm harvester. The worm cocoons will go to the laboratory for intensive vermiculture. The juveniles and adult worms will be put back to the vermicomposting facility.

The worm castings were returned to tea plantations as an environmentally friendly approach of the company. Most of the tea plantations that used chemical fertilizers before, started using organic worm castings to improve the living soil. The tea plants showed better growth, produced brighter and better (quantity and quality) leaves in a short time after the application of the worm castings.

The application of the worm castings or vermicomposts on the tea plantation is labor intensive. Most of the tea plantations are located about 1000 meter above sea level. Worm casting or vermicompost teas after diluted in the water is a right alternative to save time, energy, and cost. Moreover, the application of the castings tea to the tea plant is more efficient and effective to increase the tea production.

I visited the tea composting facilities and the tea plantations in Java before the pandemic. They are still operating. I hope that drinking tea regularly in this new normal will increase the body and herd immunity. Cheers!

Please visit the Portfolio at our website to see the detailed photo about the indoor facilities of the vermiculture-vermicomposting of the tea leaves waste in Java.

The trials on the growth and reproduction of the red wigglers fed by tea leaves waste in the tropic, succession of beneficial decomposers, and the quality of the worm castings can be read in the book Vermiculture Technology: Earthworms, Organic Waste and Environmental Management (2011). Edited by Clive Edwards et al., CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group, London. In Chapter 30: The Status of Vermicomposting in Indonesia.

It is a great pleasure for me to present this article and photos for my number 100 articles in our blog.

-Bintoro Gunadi


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