BIOLOGY OF THE EPIGEIC EARTHWORMS IN TROPICAL WET AND DRY CLIMATE OF DHARWAD (KARNATAKA), INDIA
Keywords:Biology, Epigeic earthworms, E. eugeniae, E. fetida, P. excavatus, Cattle manure
Studies on biology of epigeic earthworms is very much necessary for the selection of suitable earthworm species in effective organic waste management through vermiculture and vermicomposting process for the production of quality and quantity worm biomass (vermiprotein) and vermicompost (biofertilizer). Hence, the present study was undertaken to study the biology of different epigeic earthworm species such as Eudrilus eugeniae (EE), Eisenia fetida (EF) and Perionyx excavatus (PE) cultured in cattle manure at tropical wet and dry climate of Dharwad district, Karnataka state, India. The results of the present study revealed that the incubation period or the time of emergence of juveniles from the cocoon was less (16.33±0.53 days) in Perionyx excavatus as compared to Eudrilus eugeniae (22.33±0.73 days) and Eisenia fetida (24.33±0.88 days). The percent hatching of cocoon was more in E. eugeniae (86.66±6.66) followed by E. fetida (73.33±5.33) and P. excavatus (66.66±4.66), whereas number of hatchling/cocoon was more in Eisenia fetida (2.66±0.33) followed by Eudrilus eugeniae (2.33±0.28) and less in Perionyx excavatus (1.33±0.23). The mean weight of juvenile (mg) at the time of hatching was more in EE (7.90±0.20) followed by EF (7.00±0.57) and less in PE (5.70±0.35). The attainment of sexual maturity was observed early during 6th -9th week in EF and PE, but it was late in EE during 7th -10th week and commencement of cocoon production was noticed soon after one or two week of maturity i.e. from 8th week onwards. It was continuous and multimodal in nature with slight decline in the growth rate after maturity and cocoon production in all three epigeic earthworm species (EE, EF and PE). The various life activities such as incubation period and number of hatchling, maturity were more in EF as that of EE and PE, whereas percent hatching and juvenile weight were more in EE followed by EF and PE. Therefore, the success of vermiculture and vermicomposting process for the production of quality and quantity worm biomass (vermiprotein) and vermicompost (biofertilizer) is mainly depends on the biology or life cycle of the epigeic earthworms, type of organic waste materials used and it also depends on the prevailing abiotic factors.
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