Earthworm Abundance Increased by Mob-Grazing Zero-Tilled Arable Land in South-East England
Regenerative agriculture is a potential alternative to conventional agricultural systems. It integrates the components of zero-tillage, permanent soil cover, diverse crop rotations and rotational or mob-grazing by ruminant livestock. Earthworms are beneficial soil macrofauna and function as indicators of soil health. A need exists to identify how earthworm populations are affected when all four regenerative agriculture components are implemented simultaneously. This study investigates earthworm abundance in three split-plot treatments located on adjacent land within the same farm: (1) ungrazed permanent grassland, (2) a three-year grass-clover ley within an arable zero tillage system without grazing and (3) identical to treatment 2 but with mob-grazing. Earthworms were sampled using soil pits and classified into four functional groups: epigeic (surface dwellers), endogeic (sub-surface), anecic (deep soil) and juveniles. The total earthworm count, epigeic and juvenile functional groups were significantly (p 0.05) higher in treatment (3), the arable zero tillage system with mob-grazing. Mob-grazing increases the diversity of carbon sources available to earthworms and has a positive impact on earthworm abundance and functional group diversity within the arable rotation under evaluation.