The relation between earthworm populations and site properties was studied in a gleyic and in a calcaric cambisol. In the wet gleyic cambisol the earthworm biomass was 54 % higher than in the drier calcaric cambisol. By increasing the aeration of the soil and a more intense mixing of organic and mineral soil constituents, earthworms generally enhance the activity of soil micro-organisms. On the other hand both groups of organisms are feeding on dead soil organic matter, thereby competing with each other. A strong reproductive and intensive nutrient mineralizing activity of earthworm populations may therefore – depending on the site conditions – reduce the development of microbial biomass in soil. In order to understand nutrient cycling in soil, population dynamics and metabolic activity of earthworms have to be considered.
Those wishing to promote biodiversity in agriculture by means of result-based schemes need meaningful indicators. An overview of proposed and used indicators highlights developments and challenges.
Foods of animal origin – friend or foe? It all depends on the needs of consumers and on local production conditions, as shown by a major review in which Agroscope took part.
In vegetable production it is usual to leave crop residues on the field. Measurements carried out by Agroscope researchers show that removing these residues significantly reduces nitrate leaching.