Earthworm research and society
Earthworm research is improving; we are now extending our tentacles and conducting research that benefits the society. We are involved in most activities that involve soils to make ourselves visible and people understand our relevance. In August 2019 I was invited to a no-till conference organised by the Kwa-Zulu-Natal (KZN) no-till Club. The event took place at ATKV Resorts, Drakensville in Bergville in Drakensberg. The conference was intended for farmers and agriculture students and tries to get more soil users to adopt conservation agriculture using the no-till system, which is environmentally friendly and promotes soil biology and sustainable.
Most attendees were puzzled by the presence of a museum representative and during the earthworm workshop people asked ‘what the museum have to do with all this’. This question was asked because earthworm information is patchy for agroecosystems. Most people don’t know that earthworm taxonomy research in South Africa is only based at KZN Museum. As such, this was an opportunity to talk to soil users about the importance of earthworms in the soils and why conservation agriculture is important. By the end of the conference there were many invitations from farmers who wanted their farms surveyed for earthworms.
We realised that most people don’t know about earthworms and their importance. We now participate in programmes offered by stakeholders, such as the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs; Department of Agriculture & Rural Development and Umngeni Water to educate the public.
Photo: Dr Thembeka Nxele talking to farmers at Cameeldraai Farm