Managing No-Till’s Own Livestock

Rely on earthworms to increase soil nutrients, drainage and yields in no-till.

When you think of livestock, most likely you picture herds of cattle or hogs. But, not if you’re Bob Neidigh of Bremen, Ind.

Instead of raising cattle or hogs, the no-tiller and retired mechanical engineer concentrates on managing earthworms, which include benefits such as higher soybean yields and excellent drainage.

Neidigh keeps his no-tilled acres as close to organic as possible, primarily no-tilling a wheat and soybean rotation while seeding a winter cover crop in between. But, what seems to set him apart from many farmers is his philosophy on earthworms. “The earthworm is nature’s plow and soil builder,” he says.

Winter Cover

To Neidigh a good winter cover crop is just as important as his main crops because they stop erosion, hold water, build topsoil and feed earthworms.

But the true benefit from no-tilling winter cover crops is demonstrated in Neidigh’s earthworm populations. “Winter cover crops caused my worm population to explode,” he says. Where 50,000 worms per acre are considered average, Neidigh has counted as many as 2.3 million worms an acre or 40 times the average.

Nutritious Worms

His calculations show that this many earthworms will produce 79 tons of castings per acre a year. Since 1997, Neidigh has had pure worm castings tested in a lab to determine their nutrient makeup. The tests showed the nutrients in the earthworm castings included:

  • 9.4 pounds of urea in the ammonia form.
  • 70.56 pounds of phosphorus.
  • 169.34 pounds of potassium.
  • 211.68 pounds of magnesium.
  • 1,176 pounds of calcium.


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