The Production of Vermicompost from Dairy Sludge and its Value as a Plant Growth Medium

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Resource or Project Abstract

Dairy sludge generated at Glanbia Ingredients Ltd., Kilkenny has up until now beeen landspread. This study investigated the feasibility of using earthworms to vermicompost the sludge as an alternative method of treatment. It was found that high levels of ammonia in the sludge led to earthworm fatality but that by manually aerating the sludge the ammonia could be volatilised or by adding zeolite the ammonia could be absorbed, thus solving the problem. In a medium scale trial, the earthworm species Dendrobaena veneta and Eisenia fetida dominated the polyculture. Earthworms grew and generated cocoons during vermicomposting. During vermicomposting no leachate was generated.
Nutrient changes took place during vermicomposting. There were high levels of nitrate, increased calcium and sulphate in the vermicomposted dairy sludge. The amount of magnesium, potassium and chloride did not change, while phosphate was undetectable after vermicomposting. The levels of nitrate and phosphate were good indicators of the extent of vermicomposting. The vermicomposted dairy sludge provided improved growth and yields of radishes and barley compared to the dairy sludge and control. Compared to the vermicompost, the dairy sludge provided heavier ryegrass yields and more marigolds with larger flower diameters. Generally, it is the amount of phosphate in dairy sludge that dictates how much can be applied as a fertiliser on land. Vermicomposting reduced the amount of phosphate to an undetectable level but on the other hand created a problem of high nitrate levels. In a pot trial with grass grown in vermicompost the nitrate leached from the vermicompost. In field conditions the leaching of nitrate might occur and could cause an increased risk of contamination of groundwater and watercourses.

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Contact Information for This Resource

Mr. Percy Foster
Intitute of Technology Sligo

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Attachment Name and Download Link
Att 1    Foster_MSc_Thesis_Appendices.pdf   (0.93 Mb)
Att 2    Foster_MSc_Thesis.pdf   (2.69 Mb)

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Author(s)Foster, P.
Title Of WebsiteSecure Archive For Environmental Research Data
Publication InformationThe Production of Vermicompost from Dairy Sludge and its Value as a Plant Growth Medium
Name of OrganisationEnvironmental Protection Agency Ireland
Electronic Address or URL
Unique Identifier07268b9e-1bec-102c-b381-901ddd016b14
Date of AccessLast Updated on SAFER: 2024-06-21

An example of this citation in proper usage:

Foster, P.   "The Production of Vermicompost from Dairy Sludge and its Value as a Plant Growth Medium". Associated datasets and digitial information objects connected to this resource are available at: Secure Archive For Environmental Research Data (SAFER) managed by Environmental Protection Agency Ireland (Last Accessed: 2024-06-21)


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Access Information For This Resource

SAFER-Data Display URL
Resource Keywordsvermicomposting dairy sludge phosphate earthworms
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project CodeNot Applicable
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project ThemeWaste and Resource Management
Resource Availability: Any User Can Download Files From This Resource
Limitations on the use of this ResourceThe author should be properly referenced in any references to the work outlined in the attached reports.
Number of Attached Files (Publicly and Openly Available for Download): 2
Project Start Date Monday 1st December 2003 (01-12-2003)
Earliest Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Monday 1st December 2003 (01-12-2003)
Most Recent Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Friday 1st December 2006 (01-12-2006)
Published on SAFERMonday 15th December 2008 (15-12-2008)
Date of Last EditMonday 15th December 2008 at 11:50:22 (15-12-2008)
Datasets or Files Updated On Monday 15th December 2008 at 11:46:24 (15-12-2008)

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Geographical and Spatial Information Related To This Resource

Description of Geographical Characteristics of This Project or Dataset
This project was mostly based on the feasibility of using earthworms to vermicompost the dairy sludge generated at Glanbia Ingredients Ltd., Kilkenny which up to now now been landspread. This was to investigate if the use of earthworms could offer an alternative method of treatment of the sludge. As a result there is no geographicall area associated with the project other than the location of the plan t from which diary sludge was taken.

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Supplementary Information About This Resource

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Lineage information about this project or dataset
The current use of the dairy sludge by the plant used as a case study in this project, is by landspreading it as fertiliser on agricultural land during dry weather conditions from Spring to Autumn . Farmers are not paid to take the dairy sludge, but instead Glanbia organises and pays for nutrient management plans and for the agricultural contractors to spread it. In the past three years the volume has stabilised to approximately 17,000 tonnes of dairy sludge per annum. The key aspect of the study was to investigate if earthworms consume, live, grow and maintain sustainable populations in dairy sludge, investigate how to optimise conditions in the vermicomposting process,Conduct chemical, biological and physical analysis on dairy sludge, vermicompost and its leachate and produce a vermicompost.
Supplementary Information
Postgraduate Research Project by Percy Foster, for his Master of Science research project undertaken in the Department of Environmental Science, at the Institute of Technology, Sligo; Supervised by Dr. Billy Fitzgerald and Dr. Don Cotton
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