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How earthworms could increase the world’s food production

26-Mar-2014 | Contributed by: Guest Author

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Earthworms are a common friend to home gardeners, but now they are being considered as a serious tool to improve the world’s arable soil. 

With only four percent of the world’s surface having arable soil, and the world’s population set to grow fifty percent by 2050, Dr John Baker, soil scientist, says that feeding this increased population will be a huge challenge.

Earthworms help with drainage of soil through burrowing, and they improve soil fertility. Part of the problem is that farming land with traditional tilling methods reduces the number of these helpful friends in the soil. This process oxidises carbon in the soil, and increases soil erosion and crop failure.

In New Zealand, earthworms arrived with European settlers, and as such they are found in varying numbers around the country. When earthworms have been introduced to pasture, production has increased by 10-30% according to AgResearch Ltd.

Dr Baker, who is the CEO of Baker No-Tillage Ltd is an advocate of no-tillage machines, and developed Cross Slot no-tillage drills, which cause low soil disturbance, and preserve soil life like earthworms.

And the results speak for themselves – after one year of no-tillage, earthworm numbers have doubled in New Zealand.

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