A reflection on one of the most ancient and valuable man’s inventions

Capture mesocosm

The plough is one of the most ancient and most valuable of man’s inventions; but long before he existed the land was in fact regularly ploughed, and still continues to be thus ploughed by earth-worms. It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world…

Since the last paragraph of Charles Darwin publication on his last monumental book about earthworms in 1881: The Formation of Vegetable Mould, through the Action of Worms, with Observations on Their Habits, there are many publications about the role of earthworms in agricultural soils. My first article with my colleague related to earthworms published in 1993 was about the contribution of soil animals to the flow of nutrients (ammonium, nitrate, sulfate, chlorine, potassium, calcium and magnesium) through soil columns in a pine forest plantation along the slope of an active volcano Mount Merapi in Central Java.

A mesocosm field experiment using closed (without soil animals) and open (with soil animals) systems were used. The closed system was without opening 4 and 2 mm nylon gauzes and used as a control. Litter percolate or leachate water was collected using vacuum tube lysimeter during the rainy season October-April. The nutrients in the percolate were measured and compared with the nutrients in the control closed system, rainfall (outside the plot) and throughfall (after washing the canopy of the forest).

The results showed that the open system, containing soil animals such as earthworms collected up to 30% more percolate than in the control closed system. Most of the nutrients showed more or less the same pattern except for sulfate, chlorine and potassium were found in high amounts. The effects of earthworms were evident for nutrients found in high amounts in the percolate.

B. Gunadi and H. A. Verhoef, “The flow of nutrients in a Pinus merkusii forest plantation in Central Java; the contribution of soil animals,” European Journal of Soil Biology, vol. 29, no. 3-4, pp. 133–139, 1993.

Please visit http://www.burnabyredwigglers.com/services/ at Education & Research to learn more about the basic vermiculture-vermicomposting.

– Bintoro Gunadi

Red Worm open eyes 8-8-2013

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