By M B. Abbott
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Earthworms do not thrive in acid soils because they want plenty of calcium (lime) to digest with the organic matter they eat. Their casts, which are usually left on the surface, consist of a useful mixture of organic matter, mineral matter and lime. This material may weigh 25 tonnes/ha. The greatest numbers are found in loam soils (under grass) where there is usually a good supply of air, moisture, organic matter and lime. Various methods have been tried to estimate the numbers present in a soil but with limited success.
Hydrated lime is a good liming material but is usually too expensive for liming the soil. Waste limes. These are liming materials which can sometimes be obtained from industrial processes where lime is used as a purifying material. These limes are cheap but usually contain a lot of water. Some of the sources are: sugar beet factories, waste from manufacture of sulphate of ammonia, soap works, bleaching, tanneries, etc. Care is needed when using these materials because some may contain harmful substances.
In water logged soils. Nitrate pollution of rivers Nitrate-nitrogen compounds, some of which may have been applied as fertilizer, leach into drainage water and so into rivers. This has 16 INTRODUCTION TO CROP HUSBANDRY caused some alarm in recent years when the nitrate level in drinking water has been increas ing. Scare stories linking high nitrate levels with stomach cancer and blue-baby disease have been largely disproved by medical research and the effects on human health and the environ ment have been over-stated.