To meet the challenge of feeding a growing world population with minimal environmental impact, we need comprehensive and quantitative knowledge of ecological factors affecting crop production. Earthworms are among the most important soil dwelling invertebrates. Their activity affects both biotic and abiotic soil properties, in turn affecting plant growth. Yet, studies on the effect of earthworm presence on crop yields have not been quantitatively synthesized. Here we show, using meta-analysis, that on average earthworm presence in agroecosystems leads to a 25% increase in crop yield and a 23% increase in aboveground biomass. The magnitude of these effects depends on presence of crop residue, earthworm density and type and rate of fertilization. The positive effects of earthworms become larger when more residue is returned to the soil, but disappear when soil nitrogen availability is high. This suggests that earthworms stimulate plant growth predominantly through releasing nitrogen locked away in residue and soil organic matter. Our results therefore imply that earthworms are of crucial importance to decrease the yield gap of farmers who can’t -or won’t- use nitrogen fertilizer.
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Suppression of the root-knot nematode [Meloidogyne incognita (Kofoid & White) Chitwood] on tomato by dual inoculation with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria.
Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi and plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) have potential for the biocontrol of soil-borne diseases. The objectives of this study were to quantify the interactions between AM fungi [Glomus versiforme (Karsten) Berch and Glomus mosseae (Nicol. & Gerd.) Gerdemann & Trappe] and PGPR [Bacillus polymyxa (Prazmowski) Mace and Bacillus sp.] during colonization of roots and rhizosphere of tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill) plants (cultivar Jinguan), and to determine their combined effects on the root-knot nematode, Meloidogyne incognita, and on tomato growth. Three greenhouse experiments were conducted. PGPR increased colonization of roots by AM fungi, and AM fungi increased numbers of PGPR in the rhizosphere. Dual inoculations of AM fungi plus PGPR provided greater control of M. incognita and greater promotion of plant growth than single inoculations, and the best combination was G. mosseae plus Bacillus sp. The results indicate that specific AM fungi and PGPR can stimulate each other and that specific combinations of AM fungi and PGPR can interact to suppress M. incognita and disease development.
STUDY LINK: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21755407