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Total Soil Biology

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by Smallaxe, Feb 23, 2008.

  1. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

    You have now completely lost me?

    Calling it "junk science" is pretty strong, and I think inappropriate. It is well documented how earthworms affect soils. In most cases it is a positive affect, however in some cases it apparently can have a negative affect. I am confused at why you cannot see how exotic introduction of earthworms into an ecosystem can have a dramatic effect on the ecological composition and structure of that system.

    If you think the information and findings are incorrect, then you need to read the publications and formulate a logical case against them by either presenting a discussion of research that contradicts their findings and/or do your own research.
  2. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    It doesn't really matter to me about what people want to believe, my question was about the nutritional input of earthworms as they clean up the various organic litters off the lawn.

    I am beginning to think that the most input necessary for lawns in my climate would be an organic winterizer applied in September. It would be utilized by the plants as they are preparing for winter and off to a good start in the spring.

    That is what I am trying to determine - based on what we do know about total soil biology. Perhaps even the winterizer application is redundant with proper management practices.
    Perhaps the idea is foolish , but that is what I am researching. To determine if it is foolishness or reality.

    Again thanks for any help :)
  3. Elden

    Elden LawnSite Member
    Messages: 137

  4. Tim Wilson

    Tim Wilson LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 795

    It is probably a little silly to believe that all the worms spread across North America originated from the early European settlers, especially considering that worms cannot fly. I think that scientists are beginning to re-evaluate this stance.


    “Terrestrial ecologists in Wisconsin note earthworms are native to the farmlands, savanna and prairie lands in southern Wisconsin, but there is little research to determine which worms were native in formerly glaciated areas.
    “Given limited resources and other more pressing research questions, we’re not evaluating earthworms as an exotic species, and we’re not aware of other similar projects among Midwestern researchers other than these few projects in Minnesota,” said Karl Martin, DNR forest ecologist. Martin was aware that Holdsworth has begun examining a few sites in western Wisconsin.”


    “There are many species of earthworms and each generally has different preferences for soil conditions. Of the 200 species found in North America only 18 have been found in Canada; only six of these are native to this country. Some species are only found within the top surface layers while others, such as Lumbricus may be able to penetrate several feet to the subsoil horizon. Those that live within the surface layers generally migrate to lower depths during the summer as the soil becomes drier. Cultivation of the soil may enable earthworms to penetrate further into the soil.”

  5. Tim Wilson

    Tim Wilson LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 795

    There are over 100 species of native North American earthworms in unglaciated areas such as the southeastern U.S. and the Pacific Northwest. However, native species have either been too slow to move northwards on their own or they are not able to survive Minnesota's harsh climate.


    Pretty helter skelter information.

    I had a First Nations foster son from the far north back in 1985. His grandfather taught him to dig for fishing worms. His grandfather was of the generation which first saw whitemen way up there. At least that's his story.
  6. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Has anyone come up with a ballpark figure as to how quickly a good population of worms would turn leaf litter into N and how much N/1000 they could ultimately produce?
    Or I should say has anyone come across an attempt at determining this?
    That was the question.

    My comment about the "invasive" worm theory is that, They never give a sound scientific method by which worms 'kill' saplings and wildflowers. Everything we know about worms doesn't leave anything to imagine how they could disrupt a living plant.
    Chewing the roots to death is highly doubtful, and, no one notices it happening in gardens.
    I don't believe in believing something because the "experts" say it is so. Without a rational explanation it is less that a valid opinion, IMHO.
  7. Tim Wilson

    Tim Wilson LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 795

    The invasive theory is simple actually. Certain types of worms like to eat certain types of fungal hyphae. When a foreign worm ends up out of his territory it eats the fungal hyphae which are the living body of the mycorrhizae which feed the trees. So therefore undernourished trees. This combined with the worms eating the deadfall leaves.
  8. Tim Wilson

    Tim Wilson LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 795

    I don't really think it works exactly like that, although you may be inferring this. It is more that the worms convert organic matter into a microbial matrix and further food for other microbes further down/up the food chain. It is the activity of these microbes that convert nutrients to 2 or more forms of N which are bioavailable to the roots of plants.
  9. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    Thanks Tim, I have never thought of it that way but it is a very simple explanation
  10. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    That was what I kind of expected, and you confirmed it. Thanks, Tim.
    So we are looking at worms turning tree leaves into grass food - with or without microbes.
    Or microbes turning leaves into grass food with or without worms.

    We seem to have developed formulas for corn, soy, or alfalfa meal, but , what I am beginning to understand there is no formula for how many cu.yd. or tons of mulched down leaves can give to the turf.
    20# of corn meal or 30# of mulched maple perhaps 15# of oak leaves will give your average healthy lawn enough food for 6 weeks. [For an Example]

    I am not sure if the point is clear, due to my lack of comm. skills, but:
    "If the oak leaves mulched into the grass this spring, are ready as plant food, in 1 week or 2 months - how much NPK can be expected from it?"

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