Tuesday, August 07, 2018
You can't avoid the zombie apocalypse in popular culture. But you may not have heard about the real one going on right beneath your feet: A worm apocalypse has been transforming farmland around the world.
Why should you care? If you dreamed up plots to quietly undermine civilization, few could be more diabolical than destroying its foundation -- the soil life that builds the fertility of the farmland we depend on to grow our food.
Still, it's safe to say that most of us missed the recent study in the journal Soil Systems that lays out the case for the worldwide decimation of earthworms. Yet this new report offers a stark assessment of the health of Earth's agricultural soils. And that should concern us all.
Soil Systems:In view of recent reports of critical declines of microbes, plants, insects and other invertebrates, birds and other vertebrates, the situation pertaining to neglected earthworms was investigated. Entomological reports found the probable cause of general loss was lack of recruitment from surrounding fields (except for pest species). Earthworm decline under agricultural intensification compared to organic fertilizing is herein charted from several long-term agronomic trials, some operational >170 years. Relative biomass losses of -- 50 -- 100% (with a mean of -- 83.3 %) match or exceed those reported for other faunal groups, thus earthworms are conclusively shown to be similarly depleted from their optima in agrichemical fields. Concomitant mean loss of SOC/SOM humus is -- 56.8% and soil moisture is reduced by -- 22.3%. Organic farming lessens humic degradation and topsoil erosion, conserves essential soil moisture and biota, and produces equivalent or higher crop and pasture yields (on average +17.8% in this study) at lower cost. Loss of earthworms adds weight for rational re-evaluation of viable means for food production compatible with environmental conservation (agroecology), hence various interlinked benefits of organic husbandry in terms of yields, soil restoration, biodiversity and economics are briefly discussed. Persistence with failing chemical agriculture makes neither ecological nor economic sense.
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