Perez-Losada and Kolbe Published in Scientific Reports

July 08, 2019

Assistant Professor Marcos Perez-Losada (Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Institute) and Dr. Allison Kolbe (postdoctoral research in the CBI) published "Changes in the composition and function of bacterial communities during vermicomposting may explain beneficial properties of vermicompost" in Scientific Reports on July 4th, 2019.

Vermicomposting is the process by which organic waste is broken down through the synergistic actions of earthworms and microbial communities. Although vermicomposting has been shown to effectively reduce organic biomass and generate high-quality fertilizer for plants, little is known about the bacterial communities that are involved in this decomposition process. Since optimization of vermicomposting for commercial use necessitates additional knowledge of the underlying biological processes, this study sought to characterize the bacterial succession involved in the vermicomposting of Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius), a leguminous shrub that has become invasive around the world with consequences for the dynamics and productivity of the ecosystems they occupy. Scotch broom was processed in a pilot-scale vermireactor for 91 days with the earthworm species Eisenia andrei. Samples were taken at the initiation of vermicomposting, and days 14, 42 and 91, representing both active and mature stages of vermicomposting. Significant changes (Pā€‰<ā€‰0.0001) in the bacterial community composition (richness and evenness) were observed throughout the process. Increases in taxonomic diversity were accompanied by increases in functional diversity of the bacterial community, including metabolic capacity, streptomycin and salicylic acid synthesis, and nitrification. These results highlight the role of bacterial succession during the vermicomposting process and provide evidence of microbial functions that may explain the beneficial effects of vermicompost on soil and plants.