Let the earthworms loose

carbon-rich soil

Carbon content in the soil is often used as an indicator of its richness in nutrients as carbon is essential for the healthy growth of plants. One way to increase soil nutrients is to use earthworms that feed on decaying organic matter in the soil. In a study, S N Sruthi and Prof E V Ramasamy from the School of Environmental Sciences, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, report that the diversity of earthworms enriches the carbon content of the soil. The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

The researchers spent 12 months observing the changes in the soil with and without earthworms. They marked out three plots of land, measuring one metre by one metre, in Jeevaka Live Laboratory— an area in the university campus with naturally varied vegetation and minimal human interference.

In the first plot, they introduced about 100 earthworms of a native species and regularly fed water and cattle dung to the soil. They also fenced it with nylon mesh to a depth of one metre into the soil on all four sides to prevent the earthworms from migrating to the neighbouring plots. In the second plot, they added only water and dung and left the third plot as is. They then compared the changes in the biodiversity of earthworms and the properties of the soil over time of the three plots with three other plots of the same size outside the lab in an area with a lot of human interference.

Researchers collected soil samples before the experiment and once every three months afterwards. The results found that both, the amount of organic matter and organic carbon, increased in all the three plots. The second plot, fed with just water and dung, showed the highest increase in these two quantities.

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Let the earthworms loose

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