I realized I had been sitting on a ton of information that I should have shared earlier. That's the information about all of our project participants which I think will be relevant to interpreting the next round of data. I was hesitant about sharing this before because you might be able to figure out who is who but I think it would be challenging.
All this data is what we call "metadata." You might have heard about this in relation to data privacy and the internet/google/cell phones. That's because even if data is being gathered "anonymously" if you have enough data about someone or something it later isn't very hard to put a name or label on it. Microbial ecologists use this data, not to serve you ads, but to try and give more meaning to the microbial communities that we find.
I received 20 completed questionnaires that were sent out with the sampling kits, which is where this data is being drawn from. Thank you all again for taking the time to do that.
What's everyone feeding their worms?
I admit there were way more possible input combinations to vermicomposting than I imagined when I started. While manure was commonly used, there are 5+ different types of manure . Common bedding materials include leaves, peat moss, and hay. Food waste, juice pulp, and coffee grounds were common worm foods. There were 3 producers who have a peat moss grain food mixture, but everyone else seems to be using a custom mixture of what's available to them.
As you can guess, this much variety in food sources is going to make it really difficult to track if there is much effect due to what you feed your worms. Also one persons food waste could be drastically different from another as my questionnaire wasn't specific enough (my bad). This is just the first layer of variables as well.
How are people composting?
As you can see there are also tons of ways to compost with worms. CFT was by far the most popular method which isn't surprising considering most participants are small business owners. That being said people are also scaling buckets and bins. We also had a number of outdoor systems as well.
Nearly everyone is using Eisenia Fetida as their worm of choice, but we did have a couple of producers using African Night Crawlers
How long are people composing for?
The average composting time was 4.5 months, but you can see quite a range.
We have the additional time variable of how long a sample was harvested before sampling. Below we can see some people took a sample straight from their composter while most samples sitting around for after harvesting for less than a week.
As I mentioned before most of the samples are from small business owners who have been at this for awhile. Also nearly everyone was recruited from a national vermicomposting conference so it's likely you have some idea of how to vermicompost. I asked everyone to both rate their vermicompost on a scale of 1-10 as well as their own expertise.
As you can see the majority of people considered themselves pros or experts. I would also imagine a few of the self labeled "intermediates" are closer to pros or experts.
Above is how each vermicompost producer rated their own vermicompost. Overall the average rating was about 8, so again mostly very high quality compost. Some of the reasons for a lower rating were a new system or not fully decomposed bedding.
With this post I mainly wanted to show how differently everyone is vermicomposting. Different inputs, different composting methods, and composters. The biggest factor in common is that you guys are all pretty much skilled vermicomposters producing what is likely a high quality product. In the next posts we'll try to see if we can see if any of these factors affect the microbial community but I'm guessing this will be very challenging.