Earthworms have been coping a lot of flack of late over the invasion of forests in America and the consequential damage these introduced species are doing.
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But if you want to see the true benefits of earthworms then you turn to people like Frank Gibbs, a U.S. Department of Agriculture soil scientist from Findlay, Ohio.
Frank Gibbs likes to get dirty. Not many other guys would gladly encourage a group of journalists to join him at the bottom of a trench in the searing heat to examine the intricate
USDA soil scientist Frank Gibbs points to worm passageways in a lump of clay that help plant roots and water penetrate northwest Ohio soil. Image: Tom Henry
pathways that earthworms create in the soil, as he did one day this summer with a group of writers on a Maumee River watershed expedition organized by the Montana-based Institutes for Journalism and Natural Resources. Gibbs talks like he has a symbiotic relationship with night crawlers.
Scientists have long known that worms play an important role in carrying decayed organic matter on the surface down into the soil. That helps enrich it with nutrients.
More is being learned, though, about how worms also aid with no-till farming practices.
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Earthworms help soil retain moisture. And their tunnels helps the roots of cover crops penetrate more deeply into soil. That kind of action reduces the amount of water running off the land and carrying the nutrients that can …