Monday, August 6, 2018

DAVID MONTGOMERY - The Coming Worm Apocalypse

worm apocalypse has been transforming farmland around the world. Why should you care? If you dreamed up plots to quietly undermine civilization, few could be more diabolical than destroying its foundation—the soil life that builds the fertility of the farmland we depend on to grow our food.   

Still, it’s safe to say that most of us missed the recent study in the journal Soil Systems that lays out the case for the worldwide decimation of earthworms. Yet this new report offers a stark assessment of the health of Earth’s agricultural soils. And that should concern us all.  The study reviewed global evidence for loss of earthworms under modern conventional farming. Long-term farming trials—some that have run for over 170 years—consistently found losses of 50 percent to 100 percent of worm biomass, with an average loss of more than 80 percent.

In other words, modern farming practices have killed off four out of five worms that once lived on farms. Farmers around the world have been turning verdant fields into subterranean deserts.  This matters because recent scientific advances have shown how soil life partners with plants through the original underground economy. For example, plants, we now know, push sugary exudates out of their roots for microbes to lap up like dogs at breakfast. They don’t do this for free. The plants get something in return. Soil microbes consume and convert the exudates into metabolites that benefit the growth and health of their botanical hosts. 

And no less than Charles Darwin recognized the importance of worms mixing organic matter into fertile soil. He called worms “God’s ploughmen” and spent his whole career studying them. Both his first scientific paper and his last, lifetime best-selling book addressed the importance of lowly worms in keeping soils fertile... read more: