Worming their way in

September 5, 1997

worms may provide ideal biological indicators of the extent to which a farm can be considered truly organic, according to studies at Grassland and Environmental Research Institutes in Aberystwyth and Okehampton.

Organic farming operates by enhancing natural nutrient cycles, but until now there has been no reliable way of assessing this. Now comparisons of grasslands under different management in Wales reveals small worms, or nematodes, to be consistently higher in organic sites, reflecting increases in soil microbes, such as bacteria and fungi, on which they feed. Nematodes may provide a much more reliable and user-friendly substitute for assessing the success of organic conversion.

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