Species of worm important as indicator of healthy soil, says scientist

Jackie Stroud, soil scientist at Rothamsted Research, examining earthworms. Picture: ROTHAMSTED RESE

Jackie Stroud, soil scientist at Rothamsted Research, examining earthworms. Picture: ROTHAMSTED RESEARCH - Credit: Rothamsted Research

Experts will be discussing whether earthworms really are indicators of good soil at a panel event in May.

The Agri-Tech East event, entitled Waiting for Worms, is on May 16 at Morley Farms, Wymondham. Speaker Jackie Stroud, soil scientist at Rothamsted Research, said it was a complex area.

“There are 10 common species of earthworm and they can be divided into three ecological groups, each with a different role: epigeic live on the surface and break down organic matter; anecic or burrowing worms make permanent vertical burrows and create piles of casts or middens that can be teeming with microorganisms; and lastly endogeic worms mix organic and mineral components together in the topsoil,” she said. “In all my years digging soil pits I always find the endogeic worms, even in heavily worked soil, so I am very cautious about using ‘earthworm numbers’ as an indicator of soil health without identifying the species.”


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