About Us | Help Videos | Contact Us | Subscriptions



This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 32 No. 6, p. 2132-2139
    Received: Aug 8, 2002

    * Corresponding author(s): shuster.william@epa.gov
Request Permissions


Earthworm Additions Affect Leachate Production and Nitrogen Losses in Typical Midwestern Agroecosystems

  1. William D. Shuster *a,
  2. Martin J. Shipitalob,
  3. Scott Sublera,
  4. Susanne Arefc and
  5. Edward L. McCoya
  1. a School of Natural Resources, The Ohio State University, OARDC, Wooster, OH 44691
    b USDA Agricultural Research Service, North Appalachian Experimental Watershed, Coshocton, OH 43812
    c Department of Statistics, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61820


Earthworms affect soil structure and the movement of agrochemicals. Yet, there have been few field-scale studies that quantify the effect of earthworms on dissolved nitrogen fluxes in agroecosystems. We investigated the influence of semi-annual earthworm additions on leachate production and quality in different row crop agroecosystems. Chisel-till corn (Zea mays L.)–soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] rotation (CT) and ridge-till corn–soybean–wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) rotation (RT) plots were arranged in a complete randomized block design (n = 3) with earthworm treatments (addition and ambient) as subplots where zero-tension lysimeters were placed 45 cm below ground. We assessed earthworm populations semi-annually and collected leachate biweekly over a three-year period and determined leachate volume and concentrations of total inorganic nitrogen (TIN) and dissolved organic nitrogen (DON). Abundance of deep-burrowing earthworms was increased in addition treatments over ambient and for both agroecosystems. Leachate loss was similar among agroecosystems, but earthworm additions increased leachate production in the range of 4.5 to 45.2% above ambient in CT cropping. Although leachate TIN and DON concentrations were generally similar between agroecosystems or earthworm treatments, transport of TIN was significantly increased in addition treatments over ambient in CT cropping due to increased leachate volume. Losses of total nitrogen in leachate loadings were up to approximately 10% of agroecosystem N inputs. The coincidence of (i) soluble N production and availability and (ii) preferential leaching pathways formed by deep-burrowing earthworms thereby increased N losses from the CT agroecosystem at the 45-cm depth. Processing of N compounds and transport in soil water from RT cropping were more affected by management phase and largely independent of earthworm activity.

  Please view the pdf by using the Full Text (PDF) link under 'View' to the left.

Copyright © 2003. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyASA, CSSA, SSSA