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Dr. Todd A. Anderson
2004 USDA grant to test shelf life of
August 23, 2006
Scientific Paper. Shelf-Life Viability of Encapsulated Earthworm (Lumbricus rubellus) Cocoons. Christina M. Freitag1, Aaron Landreth, William Kreitzer2, Jaclyn E. Canas1, Qiuqiong Cheng1, and Todd A. Anderson1 1The Institute of Environmental and Human Health, Department of Environmental Toxicology, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX 79409-1163. 2Advanced Biotechnology, Inc., Elliott, IL 60933-0001.
Goals / Objectives
The objectives of this research effort are to determine the shelf-life viability of encapsulated earthworm cocoons and to see if the encapsulated earthworm cocoons maintain a high viability rate after going through the encapsulation process. This research will determine the viability rate of un-encapsulated earthworm cocoons and to see if Earthworm cocoons have a high natural viability rate. This research will also determine the hatching success rate of encapsulated earthworm cocoons in actual field conditions. Project Methods
Texas Tech University will receive four sets of 1,500 encapsulated earthworm cocoons in four consecutive weeks. Each set will be broken into five subsets of 300 encapsulated cocoons each. A total of 20 subsets. Each week a set of 300 will be tested for viability at weeks 5, 9, 13, 17, and 21 from time of collection, respectively. Since viability testing at each four-week period is repeated four times, a measure of confidence can be gained from the results. Texas Tech personnel will remove encapsulation material by soaking the encapsulated cocoons in distilled water and gently washing away the clay material. The cocoons will then be placed in a climate controlled hatching environment. A series of 20 overlapping tests will run exactly twelve weeks each. A baseline for cocoon viability will be preformed at Advanced Biotechnology Inc. If all earthworm cocoons have a x% survival rate immediately after collection before encapsulation, survival rates on encapsulated cocoons should be less than or equal to x%. In-ground viability tests will be performed in east central Illinois, the location of ABI, during planting season in early to late May. Within the field, tests will be set up in a randomized complete block with three replications. The field will be subdivided into 1 foot x 1 foot subplots within 3 x 3 foot plots, in a no tillage system and four inoculation rates: High rates to equal one million encapsulated earthworm cocoons or 22.96 cocoons per square foot. Medium rates to equal five hundred thousand encapsulated earthworm cocoons or 11.48 cocoons per square foot. Low rates to equal two hundred and fifty thousand encapsulated earthworm cocoons per acre or 5.74 cocoons per square foot.
Hatching and shelf-life viability of VermiPods™
It is not necessary for the encapsulation material to dissolve for the earthworm baby to hatch. It will eat its way out. Earthworms that hatch from there cocoons think that the surrounding environment is what they are supposed to be living in.
Live reintroduction is cost-prohibitive from storage, transportation, and application considerations. Low survivability rates are observed from previous live reintroduction experiments. When live earthworms are placed on top of the ground or in the ground, they cannot immediately burrow into it, are exposed to the natural hostile environment, and most will not survive.