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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: More earthworms in soils with directly drilled (no-tillage) cereals than in ploughed soil; experiments in southern England

Published source details

Barnes B.T. & Ellis F.B. (1979) Effects of different methods of cultivation and direct drilling, and disposal of straw residues, on populations of earthworms. Journal of Soil Science, 30, 669-679


This study is summarised as evidence for the intervention(s) shown on the right. The icon shows which synopsis it is relevant to.

Reduce tillage Farmland Conservation

A replicated controlled trial in southern England from 1973 to 1976 (Barnes & Ellis 1979) found there were always significantly more earthworms (Lumbricidae)/m2 on the direct-drilled (no-tillage) plots than on the ploughed plots. Numbers on tine-cultivated plots were similar to those on ploughed plots. For example, at one site, there were 145-345 earthworms/m2 in direct drilled plots (1973-1976), compared to 128-139 earthworms/m2 in tine cultivated plots (1973 only) and 50-218 earthworms/m2 in ploughed plots. There were no significant differences in numbers of particular earthworm species between the treatments. Deep-burrowing species were less than 10% of the earthworm communities in this study. Three cultivation treatments were compared in cereal fields (barley or winter wheat): direct drilling (no-tillage), tine cultivation to 8 or 15 cm, conventional ploughing to 20 cm. There were four replicates of each treatment at two separate sites, and for two soil types, clay and sandy loam.