Life in Earth

The teeming teaspoon

Did you know that monkeys, parrots, elephants and humans all sometimes eat soil because of the medicinal benefits that some clays provide?

The maintenance of communities of soil organisms and their organic substrates are crucial for maintaining soils in
good condition. Organic supplements and the retention of crop residues benefit soil populations by fostering soil aeration and water retention. Soil organisms release nutrients from their substrate gradually, not in a sudden pulse as from synthetic fertilisers. Irrespective of whether there is an organic or conventional approach adopted, organic inputs are important for those keen to promote best practice in soil management.

Earthworms have long been esteemed. Darwin's last scientific work, for instance, concerned their biology and beneficial effects. Commercial ‘vermiculture' kits are now available as aids to compost making and structural
improvement for garden soils. Road embankments and restored mining tips have benefited from inoculation by
spraying with suspensions of earthworm eggs, helping to accelerate soil development. Earthworm populations
are used as indicators of general soil health.