Pedosphere 31(3): 398--404, 2021
ISSN 1002-0160/CN 32-1315/P
©2021 Soil Science Society of China
Published by Elsevier B.V. and Science Press
Earthworm populations are stable in temperate agricultural soils receiving wood-based biochar
Joann K. WHALEN1, Hicham BENSLIM1, Abdirashid A. ELMI2, Barry R. HUSK3
1Department of Natural Resource Sciences, Macdonald Campus of McGill University, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec H9X 3V9 (Canada)
2Department of Environmental Technology Management, College of Life Sciences, Kuwait University, P.O. Box 5969, Safat 13060 (Kuwait)
3BlueLeaf Inc., Drummondville, Quebec J2B 5E9 (Canada)
Corresponding Author:Joann K. WHALEN
ABSTRACT
      The application of decomposable organic residues such as manure and crop litter is generally beneficial to earthworms. There is an emerging interest in applying biochar, a carbonaceous product of pyrolysis, to temperate agricultural soils. The slow decomposition rate of biochar, which also contains ash and combustion byproducts, could be detrimental to earthworms. The objective of this study was to describe the earthworm populations in biochar-amended soils on a dairy farm in the St. Francis River watershed, Quebec, Canada. Earthworms were collected from replicated field plots under cereal production. Site A received three wood-based biochar types at two application rates (5 and 10 t ha-1 biochar) plus an unamended control, while Site B received wood-based biochar (7.5 t ha-1 biochar), dairy cattle slurry (10 t ha-1 manure), or a combination of the biochar and manure rates plus an unamended control. Earthworms were collected by hand sorting and formaldehyde expulsion from soil pits. Three species, Aporrectodea turgida, Aporrectodea tuberculata, and Lumbricus rubellus, were found at the sites, and Aporrectodea was the dominant genus. Biochar sources, rates, and application with dairy slurry did not affect the earthworm population, which had 52-218 individuals m-2 in 2010 and 4-96 individuals m-2 in 2011. The seasonal variation in earthworm population may be due to flooding in the spring of 2011, which apparently interfered with earthworm reproduction. The similarity in earthworm abundance and biomass in plots with and without wood-based biochar leads to the conclusion that earthworm populations are stable in biochar-amended soils in this cold, humid temperate region.
Key Words:  biochar-amended soil,corn,endogeic earthworm,flooded soil,pyrolysis,woody feedstock
Citation: Whalen J K, Benslim H, Elmi A A, Husk B R. 2021. Earthworm populations are stable in temperate agricultural soils receiving wood-based biochar. Pedosphere. 31(3): 398-404.
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