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What an amazing harvest season!
The crops have matured, the ground supports all of the equipment (thankfully, with no ruts!), and best of all, the yields are excellent to boot! What do we do now that the crop is off and the weather is still nice? For some of you, the answer is head to the shed and pull out the plow. I know, with nothing else to do, it is very tempting to spend the day turning up the soil. Despite the pleasure that comes with such a task, you are not doing your business any favours! Such a disturbance of the soil is not only needless, but also increases the resistance of the hard pan created through years of tillage. Essentially, you are hurting one of the soils best friends, the earthworm, with your enthusiastic efforts!
The earthworm, though small in size, is very mighty, especially in large numbers. A healthy earthworm population is a sign of a healthy soil – and a healthy soil produces great crops. Logic would dictate that as stewards of the land, we should endeavour to help these little guys flourish. Perhaps such a statement isn’t quite enough for me to convince you to keep your plow in the shed. In that case, perhaps all of the wonderful things the gallant little earthworm really does do for you and your business might!
Earthworms are a key component in the process of modifying the physical structure of soils by producing new aggregates and pores. This improves soil tilth, aeration, infiltration, and drainage. Earthworms also improve soil porosity by burrowing and mixing soil. Roots often follow earthworm burrows and use available nutrients associated with the worm casts. I have been in many soil pits where I could follow earthworm holes down past the hard pan, with the roots following down the very same trajectory. A healthy earthworm population will basically plow the soil for you every three years, with no heavy equipment needed! Leave the cobwebs on your plow this fall and let the mighty earthworm thrive in your production acres.