Ant and termite burrowing could increase crop yield in dry climates in the same way that earthworms improve crop yield by aerating the soil in cooler and wetter climates reports a study in Nature Communications this week. The use of such natural ecosystem services could be a way to sustainably reduce other more costly methods of increasing crop yield such as the use of fertilizers.
In a farm study in the west of Australia Theodore Evans and colleagues find that ants and termites increase the wheat yield by 36%. They show that this occurred through an increase in soil water infiltration and improved soil nitrogen due to the tunnelling created by the ants and termites. This suggests that in warmer and drier habitats ants and termites may have a similar role to earthworms.