Earthworms in a 15 years agricultural trial.

Alternative cropping systems have been proposed to enhance sustainability of agriculture, but their mid and long-term effects on soil biodiversity should be studied more carefully. Earthworms, having important agro-ecological functions, are regarded as indicators of soil biological health. Species composition, abundance, and biomasses of earthworms were measured in autumn 2005–2007 (period 1) and 2011–2013 (period 2) in a trial initiated in 1997 near Paris, France. A conventional, an organic and a direct seeded living mulch-based cropping systems were compared. Earthworms were sampled in a wheat crop by combining the application of a chemical expellant and hand-sorting. In period 1, earthworm abundance did not usually differ in the three cropping systems, but sometimes it was higher in the conventional system. Mean total abundance was 122, 121 and 149 individuals m −2 in period 1 and 408, 386 and 216 in period 2 in the organic, living mulch and conventional systems respectively. While earthworm abundance and biomass increased slightly in the conventional system between the two periods, they at least tripled in the other two systems. This was mainly due to the species Aporrectodea caliginosa and Aporrectodea longa in the living mulch cropping system, and to A. caliginosa, Lumbricus castaneus , Lumbricus terrestris and A. longa in the organic system. After at least 14 years, organic and living mulch cropping systems contained between 1.5 and 2.3 times more earthworms than the conventional system. Considering the inter-annual variations in earthworm communities due to climatic conditions and cultural practices, earthworm communities should be assessed over several years before conclusions can be drawn. Moreover, since changes in cultural practices may take a long time to affect earthworm communities, mid and long-term trials are needed to assess the effects of cropping systems on soil biodiversity.


Pelosi, C., Bertrand, M., Thénard, J., Mougin, C., Earthworms in a 15 years agricultural trial, Applied Soil Ecology, Volume: 88 Pages: 1-8 Published: APR 2015.