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How to evaluate the role of earthworms in the elimination of highly compacted zones in field conditions

Abstract : Earthworms as ecosystem engineers influenced a great number of physical, chemical and biological processes in soil. It is often claimed that earthworms can have a great influence on the elimination of compacted zones in the soil. We wanted to put this assumption to the test. A field experiment was initiated in 1989 in northern France to evaluate the effects of cropping systems on the structure of the tilled layer in a loamy soil. Three levels of compaction were considered depending on the rotation and on the time of field operations because of high axle loads. Tillage (and no-tillage) was considered as a second factor. Earthworm populations were sampled in the different systems. If densities were high (between 100 and 400 ind./m2), only four earthworms species were found (L. terrestris, N. giardi, A. rosea and A. caliginosa). Tillage had a small negative effect on earthworm density (especially on N. giardi which seemed to be very sensitive). The cropping system (and level of compaction) had almost no effect on earthworm density but we observed that A. caliginosa was almost absent from cropping system II and III in reduced tillage. To determine if the remaining worms could decrease the importance of compacted zones, observations of macroporosity were made on horizontal planes at different depths. We observed that macroporosity was significantly higher in reduced tillage plots. To go further, a controlled compaction experiment was carried out in the field. Then, number of earthworms and macropores were counted regularly (every season) and compared between wheel and inter-wheel zones. We observed that if recolonization by earthworms is a rapid process, the related increase in macroporosity is much slower.
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  • HAL Id : hal-02751261, version 1
  • PRODINRA : 17109

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Yvan Capowiez, Stéphane Cadoux, Pierre Bouchant, Hubert Boizard, Jean Roger-Estrade, et al.. How to evaluate the role of earthworms in the elimination of highly compacted zones in field conditions. 17 Triennial. International Soil Tillage Research Organisation., Aug 2006, France. ⟨hal-02751261⟩

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