If you’re a gardener you probably know that the earthworm is a beneficial creature because as through their movement and feeding habits, they help to break down and aerate soils, as well as helping the soils stay moist.
But a recent study puts their contribution into perspective, finding that earthworms’ make significant contribution to the world’s grain harvest, in the order of magnitude similar to Russia. Put another way in a recent article in The Guardian, if “an average loaf of bread is made up of 15 slices, this means one per loaf depends on worms’ activity to be produced.”
The earthworms’ contribution is estimated at 6.5% or about 140 million tonnes on the global scale but with a proportionally higher benefit to the grain harvest in Africa (10%) and South America (8%) likely because these countries “tend to use fewer fertilisers and pesticides, relying instead on manure and rotting organic matter, which helps increase earthworm abundance.”
What could be accomplished if agriculture around the world looked at techniques to decrease fertiliser use - the production of which is a major contributor to GHG emissions - perhaps by relying more on naturally beneficial creatures like the earthworm? Fighting climate change often means looking to existing natural systems for inspiration.