Worms offer insights into soil health
Like canaries in a coal mine, earthworms are a good indication of soil health.
Earthworms provide a unique insight into soil conditions, a leading agricultural soil scientist told the recent Southwest Agricultural Conference in Ridgetown.
Dr. Jackie Stroud is from England, where she recently completed a national six-week earthworm survey as part of research focused on unlocking soils’ potential.
Stroud said there is a need to better measure the impact of changes farmers make to boost soil health.
Absence of certain earthworms is an early warning of overworked soil, she said.
“Earthworms are useful. They provide key benefits in terms of helping water filtration, cycling of nutrients and also helping supporting wildlife,” said Stroud, who added decisions made above ground will influence the millions of earthworms underground.
There are three types of earthworms: surface, topsoil and deepburrowing. Each has a purpose, including carbon cycling, improving plant growth and soil aggregation, prey for birds, and forming deep vertical burrows for water infiltration and plant rooting, she said.
If surface worms and/or deep burrowing worms are absent in arable fields, the soil may have been overworked and its natural functions compromised, said Stroud.