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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: More earthworms under conservation tillage systems, in an experiment in Rhine-Hessia, Germany

Published source details

Emmerling C. (2001) Response of earthworm communities to different types of soil tillage. Applied Soil Ecology, 17, 91-96


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Reduce tillage Farmland Conservation

A replicated, controlled trial in Rhine-Hessia, Germany from 1995 to 1998 (Emmerling 2001) found that soils managed with layer cultivation (conservation tillage) had more adult and juvenile earthworms (Lumbricidae), and a greater biomass of earthworms, than soils that were ploughed or two-layer ploughed. In most cases there were twice as many worms under layer cultivation. For example, there were 22 Lumbricus terrestris individuals under layer cultivated winter rye, compared to nine in ploughed fields and seven in two-layer ploughed fields. Four earthworm species were found in ploughed fields, five to six species in two-layer ploughed fields and six to seven species in fields under layer cultivation. Ploughing, two-layer ploughing (shallow turning to 15 cm, soil loosening to 30 cm) and layer cultivation (also called conservation tillage, only loosening the soil to 30 cm depth, no turning) were tested on ten 12 x 100 m plots. There were five different crop types in the experiment - green fallow, winter wheat with intercrop, peas, winter rye with intercrop and summer barley. Each crop/tillage combination was replicated twice. Crop type did not have a significant effect on the number or biomass of earthworms.