Science and user‐based co‐development of a farmland earthworm survey facilitated using digital media: insights and policy implications

Jacqueline L. Stroud, Keith W.T. Goulding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Science-farming partnerships can improve our understanding of how land management behaviours sustain or enhance life-sustaining soil ecosystems. However, it remains a challenge to establish partnerships between researchers and practitioners that complement the ways in which farmers acquire and value knowledge, and can also advance soil science. A pilot study was conducted to explore these issues in relation to earthworm monitoring. It showed that farmers were interested in comparing their field results to research experiments to inform their decision making. Social media was used to support farmers’ earthworm monitoring schemes, with concomitant sampling of research experiments to create capacity for shared learning. Constructive feedback from the scientific community was sought using an online questionnaire. An Autumn 2018 survey generated 152 field analyses from farmlands in England, and 48% participants’ fields and the research experiment showed no evidence for earthworms being widespread and/or the presence of all three ecological groups of earthworms. A Spring 2019 survey generated earthworm population data from farmland soils around the world, amassing 11,464 earthworms assessed over 2,200 hectares in the UK. A total of 12 scientists (from 30 questionnaire invitations) volunteered their time and expertise to support the survey. Conclusions helped to prioritise future improvements in earthworm monitoring, which should include photographs of earthworms for verification of the data, long-term monitoring, and integration with soil properties. Most (83%) perceived this earthworm survey would likely improve farmland soil health and so would recommend its use in the UK. The survey is being independently taken forward and used as a metric by both private and public stakeholders, demonstrating authentic knowledge transfer in soil science.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of Applied Biology
Early online date11 Apr 2022
DOIs
Publication statusFirst published - 11 Apr 2022

Keywords

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Earthworms
  • social media
  • civic science
  • citizen science

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