National No-Till Conference Workshop

Rhizoterra Inc. is committed to assisting people everywhere to learn more about what makes soils healthy.  At the National No Till Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio on January 13, 2015 Rhizoterra will be presenting a workshop on Building Healthy Productive Soils:

Earthworms are ecosystem engineers

Project objectives

1.) Demonstrate the influence of different crop residues on earthworm activity and growth

2.) Illustrate how earthworms act to mix soils to create a deeper topsoil layer

3.) Compare the affects of earthworms and no earthworms on residue decomposition

4.) Compare the affects of having green plants and earthworms on plant residue decomposition and removal

5.) Involve participants in a discussion on how to create an experiment that will create meaningful data that can be used make informed decisions

Experimental Design

Treatments: All treatments have the same types of soil. We have 6 treatments with 3 replicates. The residues in the treatments consisted of an open pollinated winter canola, spring barley, native grass (CRP), and cover crop (phacelia, crimson clover, sunflower, oats, and safflower). 

Treatment 1: Canola residue with earthworms

Treatment 2: Canola residue with earthworms & a corn plant (green plant treatment)

Treatment 3: Canola residue without earthworms

Treatment 4: Barley straw residue with earthworms

Treatment 5: Native Grass with earthworms

Treatment 6: Cover Crop residue with earthworms

Experiment Setup:

  • 18 clear plastic drinking bottles that were 33.8 oz (1L). Make sure all bottles are approximately the same shape and size. 
  • Air-dried field residues. Residues were collected from the field, put into separate paper bags, and dried at room temperature. (Try not to collect a lot of soil.)
  • Soil from the field site was mixed together in equal parts with washed sand.
  • Soil was collected from a forested site (because we want a contrasting soil color- in this case red to show off how earthworms mix layers).
  • Put no more than 3 earthworms in each container- try to have similar species. 

We have 3 earthworms per terrarium for a density of approximately 93 earthworms/ m3 or 3 earthworms per ft3.  This is low for a health crop field soil where 5-10 earthworms per cubic foot (ft3) would be a good number.

The terrariums will be transported to the National No Till Conference workshop where participants will be collecting the final data from this experiment.

Week One: December 10, 2014

NNTC workshop 2015 experiment NNTC workshop 2015 experiment

Front view of treatment 1-6 starting left to right.

 Top View of treatments 1-6 starting left to right.

Treatment 1: Canola residue with earthworms

Treatment 2: Canola residue with earthworms & corn plant (green plant treatment)

Treatment 3: Canola residue without earthworms

Treatment 4: Barley straw residue with earthworms

Treatment 5: Native Grass with earthworms

Treatment 6: Cover Crop residue with earthworms

At least twice a week we will be posting photos of the experiment on our website and on our Twitter feed https://twitter.com/rhizoterra. The experiment will end at the workshop in Cincinnati where participants will collect the final data, and get to see how earthworms, crop rotation, and cover crops help to create healthy productive soils. In the workshop earthworms will be our teachers as we learn more about soil health.

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