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Vermicomposting of Pig Manure E-mail
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Sunday, 12 August 2007
Vermicomposting of Pig Manure


María Gómez-Brandón, Cristina Lazcano, Manuel Aira and Jorge Domínguez

Campus As Lagoas-Marcosende, E-36310 Vigo, Spain

We studied how the epigeic earthworm Eisenia fetida modifies the microbial community during the vermicomposting process of pig slurry. We analyzed the microbial biomass and activity (microbial biomass carbon and basal respiration, respectively), substrate utilization patterns (Biolog Ecoplate) and fungal biomass (comparison between ergosterol content and PLFA 18:2ω6c); moreover, specific phospholipid fatty acids (PLFAs) were used to characterize and quantify the microbial communities. We set up a batch of six vermireactors, three without earthworms (control) and three containing 500 mature specimens of Eisenia fetida each. Vermireactors were initially composed of one module containing vermicompost, in which earthworms were placed, and another module containing a layer of fresh pig slurry (1.5 kg fresh weight). New modules containing the same amount of fresh pig slurry were added when required; this procedure allowed us to date the addition of each module within vermireactors. At the end of the experiment, the vermireactors comprised 12 modules with an increasing gradient of age, resembling a soil profile, from upper to lower layers as follows: 2, 4, 7, 8, 11, 18, 21, 25, 27, 29, 33 and 36 weeks. Microbial biomass and activity were clearly enhanced in vermireactors with earthworms, and in particular in the upper layers, which contain the highest density of earthworms. Fungal growth, estimated by the ergosterol content, was also stimulated in vermireactors with earthworms and the highest fungal growth was observed in the upper layers. The community level physiological profiles obtained from Biolog Ecoplate data revealed that the presence of earthworms and the age of layers modified the microbial community structure of pig slurry. Our results provide a better knowledge of the modifications in the microbial community structure in a vermicomposting system, as well as permitted us to determine the ability of the different approaches to describe these changes.


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