The effect of reduced cultivation on selected soil fauna


This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Reduce tillage

Action Link
Farmland Conservation
  1. Reduce tillage

    A replicated, controlled study at an arable farm over three years in England (Lee 1984) found that the effect of reduced tillage on soil invertebrate numbers was not consistent, but depended on taxa, site and year. Of the 39 beetle (Coleoptera) species analysed, 10 were more active on conventionally ploughed, 10 on minimal-tillage (tined to 10 cm and disced) and 10 on zero-tillage plots. At one of two sites, numbers of species of ground beetle (Carabidae) were significantly higher on zero-tillage plots (zero tillage: 2.8-7.3, conventional: 2.4-6.4, minimal: 2.6-6.6) and species of rove beetles (Staphylinidae) were higher on conventional plots (conventional: 8-9, minimal: 7, zero: 6-8); other beetles did not differ. Excluding beetles, invertebrate numbers showed some variation between cultivation treatments with year and site; numbers increased in conventional plots following sowing. Crane flies (Tipulidae), spiders (Araneae) and froghoppers (Cercopidae) consistently had significantly higher numbers in zero-tillage plots. Earthworm (Lumbricidae) numbers tended to be higher on zero- or minimal-tillage plots and lower on conventional plots. The replicated (two) block design was established in 1972. Between 1978-1980, the rotation comprised: spring barley/rye grass Lolium spp. and clover Trifolium spp., rye grass and clover and then winter wheat. Thirty pitfall traps/plot were sampled every 14-28 days. Earthworms were sampled by formalin extraction or hand sorting ten times/plot in April-May and September-October.


Output references
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