Influence of drying and ageing on the stabilization of earthworm (Lumbricidae) casts

R. P. Hindell, R. P. Hindell, B. M. McKenzie, J. M. Tisdall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The influence of drying and ageing on the stabilization of casts produced by the endogeic earthworm, Aporrectodea rosea, from a soil, which was hard-setting and low in organic matter, were investigated in the laboratory. Casts and uningested soil were aged-most for up to 32 days, dried for up to 21 days, or subjected to different wetting and drying cycles over 30 days. The dispersion index of aged-moist casts decreased from 0.40 to 0.25 over 32 days, while dispersion index of dried casts decreased from 0.40 to 0.01 over 21 days. The dispersion index of air-dried casts was not significantly increased by five cycles of wetting and drying. The dispersion index of dried casts was not significantly less than that of dried soil. In soils wetter than a matric potential of approximately 35 kPa, stabilization of casts was probably due to a combination of cohesion of soil particles, age-hardening and growth of microorganisms. However, in soils drier than 35 kPa, cementation was probably the major mechanism of stabilization. The addition of wheat straw to the soil prior to ingestion by earthworms increased dispersion from aged-moist casts, but did not influence dispersion from dried casts. The addition of wheat straw decreased the number of air-dried casts which slaked severely. The concentration of soluble carbohydrate decreased with dispersion index as casts and uningested soil were each dried. This suggested that soluble carbohydrate may have been denatured with or without being bonded to soil particles during drying.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-35
Number of pages9
JournalBiology and Fertility of Soils
Volume25
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 1997

Keywords

  • Aporrectodea rosea
  • Carbohydrate
  • Dispersion
  • Drying
  • Earthworm cast
  • Structural stability
  • Water content

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