While leafing through a Plow & Hearth catalog a few days ago, I spotted a unique product that made me think of the many benefits of no-tilling.
In this catalog for backyard gardeners, environmentally friendly “red wiggler earthworms” were being sold for $29.95 per pound. The sales copy indicated these worms could increase the amount of aeration and productivity of a compost pile, garden soil or raised vegetable beds.
This got me to thinking about the tremendous value of the earthworms in no-tilled fields.
I contacted Ray Weil, the University of Maryland researcher who spoke about earthworms and soil quality at last winter’s 19th annual National No-Tillage Conference.
I asked him to estimate how many pounds of earthworms there might be with various forms of tillage.
Depending on soil texture, crop rotation, the use of cover crops and climate, he said high-quality soils no-tilled for more than 20 years likely contain 2,000 pounds of earthworms.
By comparison, heavily tilled soils might contain only 200 pounds of earthworms per acre.
Doing the math based on the catalog price of $29.95 for a pound of “red wigglers,” the worms in the no-till field would be valued at $59,900.
Worms in the moldboard-plowed field would be worth only $5,990.
For a grower with 900 acres of no-tilled crops, a ton of the worms per acre, at those prices, is worth an amazing $5.4 million!
As no-tillers know, the number of earthworms in your fields is the best…