Why are Earthworms Important for Soil Fertility and Sustaining Agriculture?
Earthworms play an important role in the creation of healthy, productive, “living” soils. Basically, earthworm feeding and burrowing activities incorporate organic residues and amendements into the soil, enhancing decomposition, humus formation, nutrient cycling, and soil structure development. Earthworm burrows persist as macropores which provide low resistance channels for root growth, water infiltration, and gas exchange.
The major benefits can be summarized into the following three major categories:
Biological: The earthworm is essential to composting. They feed on organic matter and convert it into rich humus, a medium vital to the growth of healthy plants. This is achieved by the worm’s actions of pulling down below, any organic matter deposited on the soil surface (e.g., leaves, manure, etc.) either for food or when it needs to plug its burrow. Once in the burrow, the worm will shred the leaf and partially digest it, then deposit their castings. Worm castings contain high concentration of organic material, silt, clay and is rich in many soil nutrients such as nitrogen, sulphur, potash, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, etc. Worm castings are also rich in growth hormones, vitamins and act as a powerful biocide against disease and nematodes.
Chemical: The earthworm also ingests other soil particles that are small enough into its “crop” wherein minute fragments of grit grind everything into a fine paste which is then digested into the stomach. When the worm excretes this in the form of castings, a perfectly balanced selection of minerals and plant nutrients is made available in an accessible form.
Physical: As earthworms burrow through the soil, they leave behind tunnels that open up passageways for air and water, thus, creating a multitude of channels which allow the processes of both aeration and drainage to occur. The soil becomes loose, porous, and unsurpassed in fertility. It was also found that earthworms like the Nightcrawler, can burrow through compacted soil and penetrate plough pans, creating channels for drainage, aeration, and root growth.
Why Use Cocoons?
While worms are adaptable, worms may die when removed fro their soil and transported to new environments. However, earthworms that hatch in altered environments are able to adapt better to the new environment. Thus, using cocoons (or worm eggs) is a much more efficient and effective way of increasing the worm population in your farm or garden.