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Worms and water

Kemper, W.D. and Trout, T.J. and Segeren, Antone and Bullock, Murray (1987) Worms and water. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 42(6):401-404.


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A raindrop's value to a farmer depends upon whether that raindrop is available or not available to the farmer's crop. Rates at which cloud bursts deliver water often exceed the rates at which water can move into the root zones of crops through the tiny pores between soil particles. Small puddles of water then develop on the surface. These puddles may grow until water flows over the lowest banks, joining overflow from millions of other puddles to flood nearby creeks. Meanwhile, much of the crop root zone remains dry. In adjacent fields with macropores, puddles may also start to form, but the accumulating water drains into the soil through the macropores fast enough to prevent the puddle from overtopping its banks. Once the storm is over, the field with macropores will often have far more water in its root zone. Macropores are bigger than the little pores that exist between closely packed soil particles. Large pores between clods, old root channels, and cracks due to drying and soil shrinkage are all macropores, but Bill Edwards at the Agricultural Research Service research station in Coshocton, Ohio, says that earthworm holes are the most effective macropores for draining puddles on the test watersheds at Coshocton. Edwards has a field that has been in untilled corn for 22 years. He has measured rainfall and runoff on this and nearby fields of tilled corn throughout this period. According to Edwards, rainfall has averaged 39.4 inches per year, while runoff averaged 4.9 inches on the tilled plots and 0.08 inch on the untilled plots. Edwards and colleague L. D. Norton counted an average of about 6 large worm holes per square yard on the tilled plots and 155 holes per square yard on the untilled plots (5). Farmers can't do much about the amount of rain they will get, but Edward's findings indicate that farmers can work with worms to capture precipitation in the root zones of their crops.

Item Type: Article
NWISRL Publication Number: 0644
Subjects: Practical farm efficiency
Irrigation > Sprinkler irrigation
Irrigation > Furrow irrigation
Depositing User: Dan Stieneke
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2008 16:48
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2017 21:41
Item ID: 492

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