Working with UK farmers to investigate anecic earthworm middens and soil biophysical properties

Jacqueline L. Stroud*, Iain Dummett, Simon J. Kemp, Craig J. Sturrock

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

The conversion from conventional tillage to no-tillage soil management practices is generally associated with an improvement in aggregate stability and anecic earthworm populations. We worked with UK farmers who measured Lumbricus terrestris midden area (%) and earthworm numbers associated with middens compared to the general soil. They found that middens covered up to 42% of the soil surface. Middened soil (i.e. soil underlying the middens) was associated with significantly more earthworms than the general soil (i.e. non-middened soil) in agreement with research from scientific field trials. We compared the biophysical properties of middened soil to general soil across an experimental field trial recently converted to no-tillage soil management practices. We measured water-stable aggregation, soil porosity at scales relevant to water storage and gas diffusion and invertebrate feeding activity. Middened areas covered up to 13% of the field trial and were associated with significantly improved aggregate stability and porosity compared to the general soil. Our findings highlight the importance of considering middens when surveying soil quality and health in arable systems.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of Applied Biology
Early online date25 Jun 2022
DOIs
Publication statusFirst published - 25 Jun 2022

Keywords

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • agriculture
  • participation
  • midden
  • community science
  • earthworm
  • aggregate stability
  • Lumbricus terrestris

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