Little earthworms offer big benefits for soils

By Dave Nanda, 
Director of Genetics & Technology for 
Seed Consultants, Inc.

Why are earthworms important to our soils and crops? Read below:

1. There are more than 3,000 species of earthworms. They are Nature’s recyclers.

2. Earthworms breakdown organic matter like dead plants and decaying animals and create valuable nutrients necessary for rich and fertile soils.

3. There are three types of worms: surface worms that feed on dead tissue, sub-surface types which feed below the top layers of soil and make horizontal tunnels and night crawlers that work deeper in vertical tunnels.

4. Earthworms have five hearts & may be an inch to more than 20 feet long. Good soils may have more than a million worms per acre.

5. They have both male and female organs but they copulate in pairs and hatch cocoons that are smaller than a grain of rice.

6. They don’t have any teeth but grind the organic matter with soil particles they swallow.

7. Deep tillage hurts the earthworm populations by destroying their burrows. Shallow tillage and ridge-tillage is better for them.

8. Earthworms reduce compaction, minimize surface water erosion and improve aeration and water retention capacity of soils.

9. They are essential to all healthy soils. They make the soils more porous.

10. They can add up to 10 pounds of nitrogen, 70 pounds of phosphorus, 170 pounds of potassium, 1,100 pounds of calcium and 200 pounds of magnesium per acre. So, take care of those worms and they will help you take care of your soils!

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