EARTHWORMS AND ENVIRONMENT -
September 15th, 2010
Scientists estimate that there are approximately 50,000 earthworms per acre of moist soil. Earthworms live in deep, dark, long, and narrow tunnels or burrows under the ground, they cannot tolerate heat and sun and so during the summer they come up to the surface only at night.
They also leave their burrows when it rains because it is easier for them to move on the wet surface. After a rain you will notice multitudes of earthworms on the surface. The wet ground allows them to move without drying out.
BENEFITS OF EARTHWORMS
Earthworms are the unheralded soldiers of the soil. Gardeners, farmers, foresters and soil scientists all love the earthworm because of the good they do for flowers, crops, plants and animals of the forest. Earthworms are active animals and feed by bringing organic debris into their burrows from the surface and by eating their way through the soil.
The leaf litter (dead leaves and animals) they digest contains nutrients made by plants during photosynthesis and includes calcium, nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, and organic minerals and nutrients from dead animals. Their excrement, called castings, is deposited on the surface and is rich in nutrients, providing food for other animals and microorganisms. This organic material is then further broken down by microorganisms of the soil, releasing nutrients in a form available for absorption by plants.
In this way, earthworms have helped produce the fertile humus that covers the land. As a result the layers of soil are thoroughly mixed, seeds are covered and enabled to germinate, and over long periods of time stones and other objects on the surface are buried. This process has even buried and preserved ancient buildings.
Each year earthworm castings cover each acre with as as much as 18 tons of rich soil. When earthworms die, usually in the dry summer, the organic material making up their bodies is gradually released providing additional nutrients for plants. These minerals are essential to healthy plant growth.
Earthworms are used for
A protein source for animal feed.
In producing pharmaceuticals.
Earthworms in soil provide abundant benefits in increasing water
infiltration, soil structure, and nutrient cycling.
While taken for granted over the years by many, it has been only recently that scientists, soil ecologists, horticulturists, educators, and waste managers have led the way in expanding our understanding of these remarkable creatures.
Within the past couple decades earthworms, particularly the species Eisenia fetida (red worm, red wiggler), have been found capable of transforming huge quantities of garbage into something akin to gold. Earthworm excreta, known as earthworm castings, are now known to contain plant growth regulators and other substances that make them nature’s most remarkable form of bio-fertilizer and bio-pest control agent.
Researches have proved vegetables and fruits grown in a vermicompost farm stay fresh for a longer time and is known to improve their quality.
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