Greek philosopher Aristotle described earthworms as the ‘intestines of the earth’
Earthworms maintain the physico-chemical properties of the soil by converting biodegradable materials and organic wastes into nutrient-rich products, emerging from their burrows to deposit the fecal matter (vermicast) on the surface. Earthworms stimulate microbial activity, mix and aggregate the soil, soil water content, and water holding capacity. The mutual action of earthworms and microbes brings faster decomposition as the earthworm’s condition, aerate, fragment, and enhance the surface area of the organic matter for microbial action. They also increase litter decomposition, soil organic matter dynamics, nutrient cycles, promote plant growth, and reduce some soil-borne diseases.
The presence of humic acids and plant growth hormones in vermicast can increase crop yields in both natural and managed ecosystems. The application of vermicompost with chemical fertilizers and integrated nutrient management reduces the use of chemical fertilizers in the field. The use of these organic amendments can improve the growth of plants in a range of ways; number of leaves, seed germination, root biomass, fruit abundance, number of seeds, and overall yield. It also improves the nutritional quality of crops by increasing sugar, oil and protein compounds.
It is vital that these little creatures in the soil are preserved at any cost to ensure they continue to provide their invaluable services to humankind.