Nutrient availability and maize growth in a soil amended with earthworm casts from a South African indigenous species
Clifton D., Mount AR., Alder GM., Jardine D.
The study was undertaken to assess the availability to maize of nutrients from earthworm casts (wormcasts) collected from a grazing paddock in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. Maize (cv PAN 473) was grown in pots filled with ground wormcasts, non-casted surrounding soil and a mixture of the two media. Fertiliser application increased growth and uptake of nutrients by maize grown on both wormcast and non-casted soil. Maize grown on wormcasts had significantly (p<0.05) higher plant height, stem diameter, dry weight and showed higher nutrient uptake and lower fertiliser response than that grown on corresponding non-casted surface soil. The uptakes of plant nutrients, growth and dry matter yields were in the order fertiliser>wormcasts>non-casted soil. Mixing worm casts with non-casted soil improved maize growth and nutrient uptake over non-casted soil. It is concluded that wormcasts could be used as a soil amendment for crop production, especially in small-scale production systems. Copyright © 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd.