Friday, December 27, 2013

Mr. Earthworm

I am reminded today of my neighbor Jon.  Jon is a no till farmer and when he was in FFA he was a national finalist for crop production.  Not knowing how to start the interview, he said, "I am a no-till farmer and Mr. Earthworm is my friend."  He and his family escaped "Rain On The Scarecrow" in the 1980's.

This early video from 1937 show us much more about Mr. Earthworm.  He's gained a lot of respect for a "lowly" worm to be called Mister.

Earthworms are still getting attention on the national and world ag talk scene.  Our friend Odette Menard, "the queen of Quebec agriculture," did a great job showing the benefits of earthworms in no-till farming success.

"How many earthworms are in your field? Likely only a few farmers can answer that question. Maybe the better question is – how many farmers should care about the number of earthworms in their fields?

According to Odette Ménard of the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the answer is, all farmers, because earthworms are vital to maintaining and establishing healthy soils. “We need to feed the soil if we are to feed men,” she says, explaining earthworms can offer simple solutions to combat issues with compaction, improve soil structure and 
reduce the vulnerability of the soil itself.

“Soil health isn’t just about the chemical make-up,” says Ménard. “The challenge is to talk about the soil with respect to its physical and biological properties.” And that’s where earthworms become important. These creatures help to aerate the soil, build and maintain soil structure, increase hydrology, improve nitrogen efficiency and reduce pests and diseases. 

Ménard says farmers often worry earthworm tunnels will increase the chance of nutrient leaching within their soils, but that’s not the case. In fact, since earthworms stay close to living plant roots – often within one inch – their tunnels support overall root development. “More holes in the soil means the soil is actually in better shape,” she says. “And the better the soil, the more root development, counterbalancing leaching.”

Does Mr. Earthworm live on your farm?  He really likes no-till, cover crops and agricultural limestone.

Ed Winkle


  1. I remember reading once that some earthworms are not native, particularly the big night-crawlers we have now. They said that they have literally changed the environment and the wild plants that grow in many areas, though it's gone mostly unnoticed.

  2. Yes, earthworms have changed our soils. I was taught they were brought by the settlers from Europe though I am sure there were some already here.

    "It is just possible that John Rolfe was responsible for the worms—specifically the common night crawler and the red marsh worm, creatures that did not exist in the Americas before Columbus. Rolfe was a colonist in Jamestown, Virginia, the first successful English colony in North America. Most people know him today, if they know him at all, as the man who married Pocahontas. A few history buffs understand that Rolfe was one of the primary forces behind Jamestown's eventual success. The worms hint at a third, still more important role: Rolfe inadvertently helped unleash a convulsive and permanent change in the American landscape."