Milled cereal straw accelerates earthworm (Lumbricus terrestris) growth more than selected organic amendments

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Sizmur, T., Martin, E., Wagner, K., Parmentier, E., Watts, C. W. and Whitmore, A. P. 2017. Milled cereal straw accelerates earthworm (Lumbricus terrestris) growth more than selected organic amendments. Applied Soil Ecology. 113 (May), pp. 166-177.

AuthorsSizmur, T., Martin, E., Wagner, K., Parmentier, E., Watts, C. W. and Whitmore, A. P.
Abstract

Earthworms benefit agriculture by providing several ecosystem services. Therefore, strategies to increase earthworm abundance and activity in agricultural soils should be identified, and encouraged. Lumbricus terrestris earthworms primarily feed on organic inputs to soils but it is not known which organic amendments are the most effective for increasing earthworm populations. We conducted earthworm surveys in the field and carried out experiments in single-earthworm microcosms to determine the optimum food source for increasing earthworm biomass using a selection of crop residues and organic wastes available to agriculture. We found that although farmyard manure increased earthworm populations more than cereal straw in the field, straw increased earthworm biomass more than manures when milled and applied to microcosms. Earthworm growth rates were positively correlated with the calorific value of the amendment and straw had a much higher calorific value than farmyard manure, greenwaste compost, or anaerobic digestate. Reducing the particle size of straw by milling to <3 mm made the energy in the straw more accessible to earthworms. The benefits and barriers to applying milled straw to arable soils in the field are discussed.

KeywordsEarthworm; Straw; Manure; Food; Energy; Ecosystem service
Year of Publication2017
JournalApplied Soil Ecology
Journal citation113 (May), pp. 166-177
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1016/j.apsoil.2016.12.006
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Home-Grown Cereals Authority
Funder project or codeDelivering Sustainable Systems (SS) [ISPG]
Improvement of soil structure and crop yield by adding organic matter to soil
Improving yield through management of soil organisms under cropping
Publisher's version
Copyright license
CC BY
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online24 Feb 2017
Publication process dates
Accepted23 Dec 2016
PublisherElsevier Science Bv
ISSN0929-1393

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