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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Earthworm populations did not differ significantly under typical and reduced pesticide inputs in arable fields in England

Published source details

Tarrant K.A., Field S.A., Langton S.D. & Hart A.D.M. (1997) Effects on earthworm populations of reducing pesticide use in arable crop rotations. Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 29, 657-661


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Reduce fertilizer, pesticide or herbicide use generally Farmland Conservation

A replicated study of arable fields on three farms in England (Tarrant et al. 1997) found that overall earthworm (Lumbricidae) populations did not differ significantly under conventional and reduced pesticide inputs. The only significant difference between treatments was found in autumn 1993 when earthworm density was higher in reduced pesticide treatments (35-50% of normal application) than controls at two of the farms (Warwickshire: 1,529 vs 1,149/m², North Yorkshire: 409 vs 346), the reverse was true at the third farm (Nottinghamshire: 35 vs 45). Differences in earthworm densities were much greater between farms than between fields within farms. Species and age composition differed between farms but the treatment effect was not consistent between fields, even within the same farm. Seven fields over three arable farms were split in two, one half received a conventional pesticide regime and the other a reduced (35-50%) input and no insecticides (1991-1993). Earthworms were sampled in spring and autumn (1993-1994) from three 50 x 50 cm quadrats/plot by hand-digging and using 0.2% formalin solution (20 min period). This study was part of the same project (SCARAB – Seeking Confirmation About Results At Boxworth) as (Frampton et al. 1994, Frampton 1997).