The advent of nanotechnology has led to the presence of an enormous amount of nanoparticles (NPs) in the environment, especially in the soil where earthworms, the major megafaunal species, are continuously exposed to these NPs. The present study focuses on the impact of iron oxide NPs on the vermicomposting efficiency of Eisenia fetida. The worms were exposed to iron oxide NPs of sizes 30 nm and 100 nm at different concentrations (250, 500, 750, and 1000 mg kg-1 of soil) spiked in artificial soil. The maximum increase in earthworm’s weight of 4.10% was observed at a concentration of 250 mg kg-1 of soil for the iron oxide NPs of 30 nm size and the highest increase in weight of 11.50% was observed in the case of 100 nm size at a concentration of 750 mg kg-1 of soil. In the treatment containing a combination of iron oxide NPs of both sizes, the highest gain in weight of 8.06% was observed at a concentration of 500 mg kg-1 of soil. The number of days for vermicompost preparation from the substrate was recorded to be 82, 89 and 92, respectively, for the control, treatments containing 30 nm and 100 nm iron oxide NPs. The maximum number of days (93 days) was recorded in the treatment containing both 30 nm and 100 nm iron oxide NPs. The nutrient analysis of the vermicompost from the substrates revealed a general trend of increasing levels of total nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus (%) along with decreasing levels of pH and total organic carbon content (%). It is inferred that iron oxide NPs caused morphological damage and colour change to Eisenia fetida. The NPs result in an increased duration for vermicomposting but better nutrient content as compared to the control. The nutrient content of vermicompost was found to be the highest for the treatment containing a combination of both sizes of iron oxide NPs. Therefore, the impact of iron oxide NPs in vermicomposting can potentially be explored by marginal farmers in developing countries to support farming practices.
Department of Zoology, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana-141004 (Punjab), India
School of Organic Farming, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana-141004 (Punjab), India
Electron Microscopy and Nanoscience Laboratory, Department of Soil Science, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana-141004 (Punjab), India
Correspondence and requests for materials should be adressed to NR
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