Nightcrawlers: Just Blowing Smoke?
Researchers at Ohio State University blew smoke into nightcrawler burrows to study the extent to which these worm holes help move liquid manure around underground. Farmers inject the manure into the ground as a way of disposing of it; their rich soil and no-till soil conservation techniques make the earth a perfect earthworm habitat. Great news, except that the burrows are helping the manure drain so well that it tends to collect in these underground drain pipes and show up where it's not wanted. Unfortunately, that could mean that they also help move pesticides and chemical fertilizers into underground drainage systems faster, too.
The solution? Don't get rid of the worms. They're just doing their job. Change your farming practices.
“The most practical and best suggestion, though,” Shipitalo says, “would be to install shutoff valves so the drains can be shut during manure application and for a short time afterwards. Ohio farmers are currently doing this, with cost-sharing from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
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