Underground Heroes of Organic Farming
Earthworms are one of the most important soil animals; they have the capability to maintain the fertility of the soil. Earthworms maintain the physico-chemical properties of the soil by converting biodegradable materials and organic wastes into nutrient-rich products.
Thriving earthworms in the soil are often used as an indicator to healthy soil and nature friendly methods of farming.
What do they eat? Earthworms live on what we call WASTE. Yes, they feed on the vegetable wastes we throw; leaves shed from trees and any form of organic matter available in soil, and living organisms such as nematodes, protozoans, rotifers, bacteria, fungi which are harmful to plant growth.
Mutual Action with Microbes & Ecological balance
The mutual action of earthworms and microbes brings faster decomposition as the earthworms condition, aerate, fragment, and enhance the surface area of the organic matter for microbial action. They are food to larger organisms like birds and hence are an important link in the food chain.
Role in Nutrition Cycle
They also increase litter decomposition, soil organic matter dynamics, nutrient cycles, promote plant growth, and reduce some soil-borne diseases.
Slime, a secretion of earthworms, contains nitrogen. Nitrogen is an important nutrient for plants. The sticky slime helps to hold clusters of soil particles together in formations called aggregates.Some studies even report that earthworms release certain metabolites, such as vitamin B and vitamin D into the soil, which are good for growth of plants. Various studies also report that earthworms are able to convert barren land into fertile land and increase the agriculture output.
Earthworm burrows act as a channel for plant growth and as pathways for root elongation, especially in compacted zones typically found in deeper soil layers. It makes the soil porous, increasing the water infiltration rate and reducing soil erosion.
These have greater role in porosity which helps in aeration and physical property of soil. The micro-tunnels provide good root growth as they are lined with readily available nutrients and make it easier for roots to penetrate deep into the soil.
Why are we talking about them at HB ?
Activity of earthworms is lesser in an agricultural field that uses chemicals. The role of these organisms as you saw is so very important to farmers as well as us who consume the food, and they have to be preserved.
At organic farms earthworms are found thriving in the soil. This is used as one of the indicators of chemical free farming. When on field inspections at our farms, this is one of the criteria we look at to check for organic.
Check out below thriving earthworms in the soil, at our organic grapes farm. We were ofcourse thrilled to see them :-)
The web of life is perfect in Organic Farming and Earthworm has a great role to play in this; be it cycling of nutrients, micro-flora and fauna population.