Do earthworms affect phosphorus availability to grass? A pot experiment.

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The largest part of phosphorus (P) in soil is bound by the soil solid phase; its release to the soil solution therefore often does not meet the demand of plants. Since global P fertilizer reserves are declining, it becomes increasingly important to better utilize soil P. We tested whether earthworm activity can increase P availability to grass (Lolium perenne L.) in a 75-day greenhouse pot experiment in a soil with low P availability. The full factorial design included two factors: P fertilization (control without P; phytate; and inorganic P) and earthworm population (control without earthworms; Lumbricus rubellus Hoffmeister, Lr; Aporrectodea caliginosa Savigny, Ac; and Lumbricus terrestris L., Lt). At four times during the experiment, aboveground plant growth and P uptake were determined. In a separate incubation experiment, earthworm casts and bulk soil were analyzed for inorganic and organic P in water extracts. We observed higher levels of dissolved P pools (p <0.001) in the water extracts of earthworm casts compared to those of the bulk soil. The magnitude of the difference differed between earthworm species, with the largest levels for Lr: from
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-42
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • pontoscolex-corethrurus glossoscolecidae
  • organic-matter
  • phosphate adsorption
  • colloidal phosphorus
  • lumbricus-terrestris
  • geophagous earthworm
  • soil-phosphorus
  • tropical soil
  • plant-growth
  • casts

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