- According to a study by Fonte, Hsieh, and Mueller, earthworms contribute to approximately 6.5% of global grain production and 2.3% of legume production.
- The study quantifies earthworms’ impact by analyzing maps of earthworm abundance, soil properties, and crop yields.
- The invertebrate contributes to over 140 million metric tons of grain and legume production annually.
- Their contribution is particularly significant in the global South, including 10% of total grain production in Sub-Saharan Africa and 8% in Latin America and the Caribbean.
- Investing in agroecological policies to support its populations could contribute significantly to sustainable agriculture.
A new study by Fonte, Hsieh, and Mueller, published in 2023, has quantified earthworms’ significant role in global food production. The researchers estimate that earthworms contribute roughly 6.5% of global grain production and 2.3% of legume production, equivalent to over 140 million metric tons annually.
The study employed a comprehensive approach, analyzing maps of earthworm abundance, soil properties, and crop yields. It also incorporated earthworm-yield responses from existing literature to estimate the impacts of the invertebrate on the production of key crops like maize, rice, wheat, and barley.
The invertebrate’s contribution to global food production is especially notable in the South. In Sub-Saharan Africa, they contribute 10% of total grain production; in Latin America and the Caribbean, their contribution is 8%. These findings highlight the importance of earthworms as drivers of global food production.
Importance for Sustainable Agriculture
The study suggests that investment in agroecological policies and practices to support the populations and overall soil biodiversity could contribute significantly to sustainable agricultural goals. Earthworms are critical soil ecosystem engineers who support plant growth in numerous ways, and their role in agriculture should not be underestimated.
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