Earthworms are considered as Mother of the soil. We can tell the fertility of the soil by seeing the amount of Vermicast or worm casts of Earthworm near the root of the crops. Earthworms mainly stay inside the soil sometimes even as deep as 15 feet. As we know the deep soil is always fertile and has a lot of nutrients. Earthworms eat organic wastes, sand, soil. Earthworms eat the dried straw, grass, small microorganisms, algae, fungi, and even pathogenic bacteria. Most of the pathogenic bacteria which affect the roots of crops are been eaten by Earthworms.
The benefits of earthworms are numerous, one among them is Worm cast or Vermicast which is excreta of Earthworms. Earthworms eat organic matter, soil, some rocks which are rich in nutrients. These will be ground in the intestine and all the nutrient-rich by-product is excreted out. This is called as Vermicast or Worm cast. The partially digested nutrient-rich cast is natural fertilizer for the plants. The soil will be rich in nutrients, plants grow healthily.
Vermicast and Vermicompost are two different things. We always assume that both are the same, which is false. Vermicompost is not made by earthworms. They look like earthworms but not earthworms, they are ‘Eisenia Foetida’. These worms feed only on the surface of the soil. The surface feeders break down the straw, organic waste and cow dung which is given on the surface of the soil. The already totally decomposed matter which we get from Vermicompost is not of much use to the farm. When Vermicompost is added to the soil, the oxidation process occurs very fast where carbon is converted to carbon dioxide. This increases the rate of Global warming. Hence Vermicompost is not that useful for the soil.
In parallel Vermicast from Earthworms are full of nutrients. All crops need these nutrients. We can’t see any deficiency of nutrients when you have a lot of earthworms in your farm. The rule of thumb is when you increase the quantity of Vermicast, you will increase the yield from your crop.
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How to increase the Earthworm population in the soil?
Remember the first rule of Natural Farming, nothing to be brought to the farm from outside. Well, then how can I increase the count of Earthworms on my farm? Earthworms will be on every farm whether its pesticides infected farm or barren land. They will be deep inside the soil, all we need to do is break away their dormancy and bring them back to the most surface of the soil.
Here are the photos of my farm, where the complete barren land is changed to a lush green farm just by giving green cover or live mulching. I have added pumpkin, sun hemp, Changeri , Alfalfa (Horse gram) and Marigold plants. It took us 3 months and one rainfall.
Lets list down why earthworms are missing on our farm, below are the questions which you need to ask yourself:
- Am I using Chemical pesticides and Fertilizers?
- Is my land exposed to too much sunlight?
- Am I using heavy types of machinery like tractors or tillers?
- Do I till my land very often?
If your answer is YES for any of the above, then forget about Earthworms – there is no free labor for you. If you can cut down all the things which you said YES, then you will get all the benefits of Earthworms. You can expect a lot of yield without adding any fertilizers or manure to the farm.
Earthworms are more active in the damp soil, low temperatures, and chemical-free lands. So bring that environment to them, earthworms automatically will come to your farm. The perfect environment can be created by Mulching the soil either by straw or live mulching. Mulching reduces the impact of heat on the soil. Mulching creates a microclimate where the optimal environment is created for microorganisms and Earthworms to thrive. Microclimate activates Earthworms and they start to work near the roots of the crops. If the microclimate is not present they go deep in the soil where there is moisture and the climate is cool.
Stop using Chemicals on the farm. It’s as good as adding poison to the soil and expecting Earthworms to survive. Chemicals kill Earthworms and even humans indirectly. Even though your intention of using chemicals is to eliminate weed and kills pests but the chemicals will have no thought process it kills everything on its way. Good or bad everything is destroyed on your farm. It takes a minimum of 3 to 5 years to get back the useful insects, microorganisms, and earthworms in the pesticide infected farm. So stop using it as soon as possible.
Usage of Heavy types of machinery like tractors or tillers will kill earthworms. Due to the weight alone, it will crush all the earthworms which are in the soil. Earthworm pores(drilled holes) will be closed. When these holes are closed the water will not seep into the soil. There are a lot of disadvantages while using heavy machinery.
How do Earthworms help farmers?
When microclimate is created, when the land is pesticide-free, when there is no heavy tilling the earthworms get activated. They start to drill holes to come up to the roots to feed and then to the surface to cast and then again down to the roots to feed on microorganisms or organic matter. Earthworms feed on deeper soil, dead grass, rock, small stones, limestones, sand which had an abundance of nutrients. These get ground in the intestine of Earthworms and when they come up they cast. The Earthworm castings have a lot of nutrients, which are directly available for the roots of crops. Nutrients help crops to grow better and healthy Naturally.
This continuous process of drilling holes will create ventilation and also pores for the water to seep in. Have you observed after heavy rainfall there will be water clogged in your farm or water is washed away? But in Natural farm water is always absorbed by the soil. This happens due to the pores created by Earthworms. Water retention of that farm will be high and even the water table will be increased. No need to worry about water in your summers. During summers due to capillary force, all the water which is seeped in will come up to be available to the roots of crops. Isn’t it amazing How Nature works? So why do we go against Nature? let’s just mimic.
Is Natural farming Labor free?
I believe that Natural farming is labor free. We all know that there are a million laborers working day and night for free. Those labors are none other than our local earthworms. We never pay Earthworms, but they still work all through the day. If we have a perfect balance in our farm, we hardly need labor. The only work we will be left out with is taking the yield or plucking the fruits.
After reading the advantages of local earthworms, you definitely thought about activating the earthworms in your farm. Avoid using pesticides, no heavy machinery in your farm and always mulch your whole farm earthworms eventually get activated.