How many of you remember this famous saying that we learnt in school ‘Earthworms are farmers best friends?’ Everybody? Great! But do you actually remember the logic and science that goes behind it? No? Well, then this is the perfect piece of article for you! What I am talking about is the not-so-acknowledged but a significant phenomenon of the ‘Blue earthworms’ of Meghalaya whose peculiar movements and migrations up and down the hill twice a year have proven to be a game-changer for the local farmers. Right from improving the overall soil fertility to preparing the famous ‘vermicompost’, these tiny creatures play a huge role in maintaining the sensitive ecological balance which further enables a ‘sustainable farming’ occupation. Scientists of the ‘Zoological Survey of India’ have recently studied and reported this activity. However, humans have never failed to interfere with nature anywhere and anytime, have they? One such consequence of this has led to the hindrance of the activities of these poor creatures! Sad!
Perionyx macintoshi is the
scientific name of these blue earthworms that are found in many parts of the
world including India. The beautiful ‘Khasi hills’ in the state of Meghalaya is
lucky enough to witness the activities of these pretty blue worms. In the month
of April-May when they sense the arrival of monsoons, this army of earthworms
that live under the rocks aside the banks of river start their climb up the
hill to save themselves from drowning. Similarly, around September-October they
march back down the hill when the vegetation begins to dry off and the
temperature and humidity drops. And mind you, the angle of these hills is as
steep as 80-85 degree and they are almost only 1.6 feet long. Smart, aren’t
why are we discussing about this in such depth? Well, let me bring you to
notice that these movements have rendered especially important in maintaining
the quality of soil in the farms. Their wriggling and wagging facilitate the quality
of soils, maintains humidity level as the soil becomes porous as a result of
which air and water gets infused, produces humus and vermicompost by ingesting
dead organic matter and soil particles which eventually are excreted out of
their systems after digestion. What’s more? Let’s have a look at the numbers-
According to the investigations in the United States, fresh earthworm casts are
five times richer in available nitrogen, seven times richer
in available phosphates, and eleven times richer in
available potassium than the surrounding upper 6 inches
(150 mm) of soil.
All these factors eventually boil down to one prime output- ‘Sustainability’ as a result of organic farming as well as striking a crucial ecological balance. The farmers have given up the ‘broomstick cultivation’ usage of harmful fertilizers and just simply believe and rely on the rich soil gifted to them by these worms and eventually have started growing the famous ‘organic tea’ that has gained brand value not just in India, but abroad!
let’s not forget the sad reality of today of humans dwindling and interference in
the form of stone quarrying, earth-cutting, predation, developmental activities
pose threat to successful migrations of earthworms. Associated with these are
other environmental factors such as erratic weather patterns, climate change, unusual
and sudden rainfalls. Sadly, these multiple factors have led to a disturbance
in their migration activity so much so that a false alarm of rains in September
led to their dissection and dehydration while climbing down. Breaks my heart. But
the least we can do is adopt a sustainable lifestyle and acknowledge this
marvellous activity of these worms. Seems like all other animals but humans
have bagged the responsibility to pave a sustainable future!
But just imagining the scenario of these earthworms covering the hills with their majestic royal blue colour fills my heart with joy and amusement. I hope you feel the same!