Nutrient and enzyme mobilization in earthworm casts: A comparative study with addition of selective amendments in undisturbed and agricultural soils of a mountain ecosystem

Article Type

Research Article

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International Biodeterioration and Biodegradation


Earthworms are known to bio-degrade various types of organic materials added or already present in soil. Two soils were collected from different land use patterns viz. an agricultural land (AL) and an undisturbed land (UL) of a mountain ecosystem of State of Himachal Pradesh in India for the present investigation. A laboratory microcosm study was carried out to elucidate effects of various agricultural-soil amendments, viz. wood ash (WA), rice husk (RH), cow dung (CW) and their mixture (MA) applied @25 t ha−1, on selective biological and chemical properties of earthworm (Eisenia fetida) casts and growth in the collected soils. Subsequently, earthworms were reared in soils from both AL & UL, treated with the amendments; and the resultant earthworm cast (EwC) properties were found to be largely determined by the nature of amendments rather than land use types. Soils treated with MA produced casts displayed higher nutrient content, microbial biomass C with higher activities of dehydrogenase and urease. Earthworm growth and cast formation were greater in the soil from UL over soil from AL for all treatments except WA, implying better acclimatization and earthworm activity in the former. Further, casts produced under UL had higher nutrient mobilization and enzyme activity in comparison to AL. Results suggested that agricultural intervention in an undisturbed land might weaken its ability to support growth, development in conjunction with the activities of earthworms and associated enzymes.

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