Our soil is very important and its careful management is key to many aspects of farming life at Overbury. Soil helps us to grow our food, capture rain-water and it is home for many billions of bacteria, fungi and of course worms.
On Wednesday 27th February, Jackie Stroud from Rothamsted Research came to the farm along with Alun Beech (BBC Producer) to talk to us about our worms. Worms play vital roles in our soil. They recycle nutrients from old decaying material, produce drainage channels and actually build soil. There are 27 species of worm in the UK and in our farming soils there are three main types.
The Epigeic worms are surface dwellers and usually live in the residue of the previous crop or the organic mulch on the soil surface. They are red in colour and are fast moving (for a worm).
The Endogeic (Top soil worms) are the most common worms and have shallow horizontal burrows. They are usually pale in colour.
The Anecic worms are deep burrowing earthworms. These are typically rarer worms being depleted with constant cultivation (working) of the soil. They feed on the material on the soil surface, so when you cultivate their food source is removed and their burrows are destroyed.
We found all 3 types of worm in our field. It has been in no-till, (meaning that it hasn’t been ploughed or deeply cultivated) since at least 2014 making it a very good habitat to encourage worms.
Not only are they left alone we also feed them with Farm Yard Manure, Compost and we grow special crops, called ‘Cover Crops’ to provide food and nutrition for them and all of the other species that live in the soil.
Jackie Stroud is organising #WorldWormWeek starting on the 23rd March. The plan is to get lots of farmers out surveying their worm populations to try and build up a picture of the national population. The last survey we completed last spring showed that nationally only 40% of intensively farmed fields have enough numbers and species of worms in them. The field we did at Overbury contained all three species and in good numbers which is a great sign.
If you would like to get involved have a look here: -
and if worms have caught your imagination there is some great information here:-