Welcome to the second instalment of our new 12 part Know your Soils series sharing practical tips for monitoring the soil health on your land. Keep an eye out for our bitesize videos and fact sheets on simple tests you can do yourself on farm.
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”
Take the earthworm quiz
A quiz created by Jackie Stroud, soil scientist at Rothamsted Research, also known as ‘The Worm Lady’!
Did you know there are three different types of earthworms at work in your soil? Each type lives in a specific layer and performs a unique function which contributes to the soil’s health.
It’s simple to monitor the activity of earthworms, all you need to do is dig a 20cm deep hole in the ground and count the different earthworms you find in each layer. Counting the number of worms is a good indicator of life in the soil. If you go one step further and identify what type of worm it is, then this can tell you much more about what the worms are working on and help uncover any necessary changes you need to make in your soil management.
Really you want to have all three types of worms working in harmony. The living litter feeders break down organic matter on the surface of the soil, the top-soil worms work on soil aggregation and nutrient mobilisation, and then the deep-burrowers keep water flowing from the soil surface to deep pools below, as well as increasing aeration and root development.
However, you need to make sure you can identify which worms are which before you head out to the field! Jackie has created a fun and fantastic quiz to help you learn about and test yourself on different worm types.
It only takes a few minutes to complete and you’ll learn everything you need to know about earthworms from the surface dwellers to the deep burrowers.
Take the earthworm quiz
You can also use this AHDB info sheet that Jackie put together as a resource for learning about the types of worms and how to effectively count earthworms.
Interested in expanding your wormy knowledge? Get involved with Jackie’s #60minworms project, an on-farm worm survey, the results of which contribute to a UK wide data set on worm activity so we can understand soil health better together. The next survey is taking place from 15th September – 30th October.
See our free online soils guide for soil tests you can do at home and find out how our app Soilmentor helps you record & learn how your soil is changing.