Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: The influence of ley management on earthworm populations

Published source details

Heath G.W. (1962) The influence of ley management on earthworm populations. Grass and Forage Science, 17, 237-244


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

Reduce fertilizer, pesticide or herbicide use generally Farmland Conservation

A study of three-and-a-half-year grass/clover Trifolium spp. leys from 1950 to 1956 in the UK (Heath 1962) found that plots that were grazed rather than cut and with nitrogen applications had higher earthworm (Lumbricidae) mass in some years. Overall abundance of worms was 17-39/cubic foot. Plots with nitrogen applications had a significantly greater weight of earthworms than those without nitrogen applications in 1953 (9-10 vs 5-6 g/cubic feet), but not overall (8 vs 7 g/cubic feet). However, there tended to be lower numbers of worms in plots with nitrogen (17-30) than those without nitrogen (19-39/cubic foot). One plot of each treatment combination was established in each of the six years (the study also compared cutting and grazing management). Fertilizer was applied at 280 lb N/acre/year. Earthworms were sampled when plots were ploughed out of leys in the autumn (1953-1956). Four samples of two cubic feet of soil were sampled in each plot per year.

 

Create rotational grass or clover leys Farmland Conservation

A study of grass/clover ley fields on an arable site from 1950 to 1956 in the UK (Heath 1962) found that one-year ley plots had significantly lower earthworm species richness and abundance than three-and-a-half-year leys. One-year ley plots (within arable rotations) had lower numbers of species and overall abundance of earthworms (8-15/cubic foot) compared to three and a half-year ley plots (17-39/cubic foot). Overall earthworm weight showed the same trend (4 vs 8 g/cubic feet). One plot of each ley treatment was established in each of the six years. Leys were ploughed in the autumn and winter wheat sown. Plots were sampled for earthworms when they were ploughed out of leys (1953-1956). Four samples of two cubic feet of soil were sampled in each plot per year.