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Earthworms Suppress Plant Diseases & Support Quality Vegetable Production
Sustainable farmers have understood for years that the density of earthworms is one of the most reliable indicators of soil health, but they have not known why.
Earthworm Research Shows Suppression of PathogensResearch at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station has provided compelling evidence that the humble earthworm plays a significant role in suppressing several common soil-borne plant pathogens.
Earthworm densities have been regarded as reliable indicators of soil health, but their role in suppression of plant disease has not received much attention.
Earthworms in GreenhousesA greenhouse study was carried out with asparagus, eggplant, and tomatoes grown in pots infected with common Fusarium and Verticillium species known to cause serious plant diseases in these crops. In the pots that also contained earthworms, plant weights increased 60% to 80%, and estimates of disease severity declined 50% to 70%.
The author speculates that the disease-suppressive benefits of earthworms are brought about by their impact on soil microbiological activity, and that “…strategies to increase earthworm densities in soil should suppress soilborne diseases.”
Source: Wade H. Elmer, “Influence of Earthworm Activity on Soil Microbes and Soilborne Diseases of Vegetables,” Plant Disease, Vol. 93: 175-179, February 2009