Major UK Survey Finds Worms Are Rare or Absent in 40% of Fields

The UK’s first survey of farmland worm populations has revealed that nearly half of English fields lack key types of earthworms. The results of the survey of worm populations on farms in England shows the consequences of widespread over-cultivation.

The #60minworms project, a citizen science project, asked farmers to dig for worms in their own fields. Farmers who volunteered to take part in the study dug 10 small holes across a field so the number and diversity of earthworms could be determined.

42% of fields had poor earthworm biodiversity, with very few or no surface-dwelling or deep-burrowing worms seen. While there was a good presence of horizontally burrowing topsoil worms in fields, 21% lacked any surface-dwelling worms and 16% had no deep-burrowing worms.

One of the project’s main aims was to find the baseline of farmland earthworm populations against which soil health could be tested in the future.

The study was carried out in March and April 2018 and revealed that the average field had nine earthworms in every spadeful of soil, with the best fields having three times as many as the average. 10% of fields had high earthworm populations, of more than 16 worms per spadeful. The results have prompted 57 percent of farmers who participated to agree to change their soil management practices.



Photo: “Earthworms” by USDA NRCS South Dakota is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0