Submitted to: Ecological Congress of Hungary
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: September 18, 2003
Publication Date: October 10, 2003
Citation: Csuzdi, C., Szlavecz, K., Cavigelli, M.A. 2003. Effects of crop management systems on species composition and abundance of earthworms (Oligochaeta)[abstract]. 6th Ecological Congress of Hungary. p. 68.
Organic farming has been proposed as a means of increasing the environmental and economic sustainability of cropping systems, but there are few data on the environmental effects of organic farming. At the USDA-ARS Beltsville Agricultural Center, the Farming Systems Project (FSP) was established in 1996 to evaluate the long-term sustainability of five different cropping systems. The focus of our research within this multidisciplinary project is assessment of soil biodiversity and of the soil food web. We compared the earthworm fauna in three corn-soybean-wheat/legume cropping systems: a synthetic no-till, a synthetic till and an organic system. In the synthetic systems, synthetic fertilizers and herbicides are applied regularly. In the organic system, soil fertility is supplied only with legumes and broiler litter and no herbicides are used. Earthworm sampling took place in spring, summer and fall of 2001-2002. Earthworms were extracted from 50 cm x 50 cm quadrats using a hot mustard suspension. Adults and subadults were identified to species; juveniles were identified to genus or family. We found four earthworm species: Lumbricus friendi, Aporrectodea caliginosa, Allolobophora chlorotica, and A. rosea. Lumbricus friendi, an Atlantic element of the European fauna, has not been reported previously in North America. Earthworm density and biomass varied between 0 and 306 individuals per m2, and 0 and 164 g per m2 (live weight), respectively. No-till plots consistently had the highest earthworm abundance followed by the organic plots. The differences in earthworm abundance were primarily due to L. friendi. This large anecic species was probably most affected because deep tillage destroys its long, vertical burrows. We also found an unusually large number of individuals with regenerated tails, indicating that physical disturbance of soil (tilling, cultivation) profoundly affects the earthworm community.