Evaluating vermicompost mediated host plant resistance as a sustainable alternative to manage agricultural insect pests

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2009: $9,810.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Grant Recipient: North Carolina State University
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Yasmin Cardoza
North Carolina State University

Annual Reports


  • Vegetables: cabbages


  • Crop Production: application rate management, municipal wastes, organic fertilizers
  • Pest Management: compost extracts, integrated pest management, prevention
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: earthworms, organic matter, soil microbiology, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Organic waste can be fed to various species of earthworms which digest them, resulting in the production of organic compost containing increased microbial activity and enhanced nutritional content (vermicompost), which promote plant growth and mass accumulation. Earthworms are capable of digesting many types of organic materials; so this is an environmentally friendly alternative for managing accumulation of wastes in landfills. The castings produced as a result of this process (termed vermicompost) are high in nutrients readily available to plants. Vermicompost has been determined to increased plant growth, health, flower and fruit yield, as well as, increase resistance to arthropod herbivores. The characterization of the vermicompost resistance to various insect pests, as proposed in this study, will yield valuable insights into the plant defense mechanisms involved in this resistance. Scientific documentation of the potential beneficial effects of vermicompost amendments can lead to the widespread adoption of vermicompost as an agricultural production aid. This in turn could result in greater demand for vermicomposts as sustainable alternatives to synthetic fertilizers and as part of pest management programs.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This study aims to determine if antixenosis and/or antibiosis are the mechanisms responsible for herbivore resistance in vermicompost-grown plants. To accomplish this, we will test the effects of plants grown in various vermicompost concentrations on the preference and performance of generalist and specialist Lepidopterous and Hemipterous cabbage pests. Furthermore, potential tri-trophic effects of this resistance will be evaluated using the Lepidopteran parasitoid, Cotesia marginiventris. Wasp attraction to control and vermicompost-grown plants damaged by host caterpillars and their survival and development on host caterpillars fed control or vermicompost-grown plant tissue will be investigated.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.