Expert panel to study mass death of earthworms in Wayanad

Dead earthworms swept up from a yard in Nadavayal, Wayanad.
Dead earthworms swept up from a yard in Nadavayal, Wayanad.

Panamaram, Wayanad: A detailed study would be conducted on the mass death of earthworms in many parts of Wayanad after the recent floods, Minister for Agriculture V S Sunil Kumar has said.

A state-level team comprising experts from the Kerala Agriculture University, Department of Soil Survey and Conservation, and various research centres in the state has been set up to study the changes in the soil structure in order to understand the impact of the floods on diverse ecosystems.

Earlier, Manorama had reported about the strange phenomenon experienced by Wayanad where thousands of earthworms wriggled out of the soil and perished in the open during the past couple of days.

“They die as soon as they reach the surface. Every day we sweep up hundreds of dead worms strewn across our farmland,” said a farmer.

Dr P Rajendran, associate director at the Regional Agricultural Research Station in Ambalavayal, who had conducted a study on a case of similar nature two years ago, attributed the phenomenon to excess heat and the increase in the temperature of the sandy soil.

Earlier, stray instances of earthworms dying en masse were reported only from areas with dry soil, but now, many such cases were being reported from various parts of the district.

According to experts, Wayanad has been witnessing dramatic aberration of climate and change in the soil structure.

Rainfall in the district increased manifold this year, compared to the previous year. Wayanad received 2906.19 mm rainfall till August 14 and 3303.72 mm rainfall till August 18 this year. This was a staggering increase from the 1019.42 mm recorded in the corresponding period a year ago.

The district received 245.37 mm of rainfall on August 9 alone. Following the monsoon season, Wayanad is experiencing wide diurnal temperature swings, as in much of the Deccan Plateau where temperature is high during daytime and low in the nights.

It is said that such weather extremes caused by climate change would have an adverse impact on the district’s biodiversity and lead to localised extinction of species such as earthworms that are vital to the natural soil ecosystem.

However, many experts are of the opinion that the mass death of earthworms could have been caused by changes in the soil structure.

According to them, due to water saturation following the erosion of the top soil, earthworms are forced to come to the surface to breathe. As they could only tolerate a temperature range of 16 to 28 degree Celsius, they perish in the excess heat.

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