Poop can save the life of your seedlings.
One of the most common killers of seedlings is the pathogen Pythium aphanidermatum, which causes what gardeners commonly refer to as “dampening off“. This pathogen is a water mold or “oomycete.”
And, apparently, worm castings, also known as vermicompost, can be used as an alternative to chemical pesticides.
According to an article from the Cornell Daily Sun, Allison Jack, a graduate in plant pathology and plant-microbe biology, found a link that vermicompost can suppress disease in crop plants:
The microbes present in compost are the key to suppression. These microbes colonize the seed surface within eight hours of being planted in vermicompost. The microbes chemically modify the seed as it germinates so that signaling between the seed and the motile zoospores of P. aphanidermatum is interrupted, preventing the pathogen from accessing the plant.
Since vermicompost is probiotic, it stimulates the growth of microorganisms, unlike tranditional pesticides. These pesticides are antibiotic and inhibit such growth, basically creating a sterile environment. As is common with pesticides, they lose their efficacy when microbes evolve resistance.
Striving to be an organic gardener, using the tons of vermicompost that I have collected since June helps me to avoid ever needing any time of chemical treatment beyond what naturally occurs in Mother Nature.
A seed can become infected with Pythium aphanidermatum, often darkening and softening to the shell. Nine times out of ten, this can kill the seed before the seedling emerges, or cause the seedling to be weak, sometimes getting “wet” patches on it which decay until it falls apart.
Likewise, a seedling can be infected after it sprouts, before it leaves the ground, or even after it appears well-developed, the latter often resulting in the plant mysteriously thinning right where it touches the ground, until its stem at that point rots and it falls over.
Damping Off Seedling
I would recommend using sterilized soil to plant seeds in and applying a spray of worm compost tea to your sections of plantings. Also, make sure to promote good air circulation and don’t over-water.