THE arrogant earthworms in the mud paddies of the Banaue Rice Terraces have no relations to the “Arrogant Worms” singing trio of Kingston, Ontario in Canada who once upon a time in the 1990s captivated the hearts of Canada young.
Those earthworms of Banaue in Ifugao are unreasonably huge and considered pests by the tillers of the world famous rice terraces. This breed of vermin measures some 12 or more inches and round as a normal Pilipino thumb. In the past three or four decades, farmers raised concern over the proliferation of these earthworms that burrow into the terraces’ soil causing rice paddy dikes to crumble.
No positive opinions were advanced for those arrogant earthworms. Theories were advanced and applied to eliminate them. A few farmers secretly used pesticides on those wiggling cretins but they seem to multiply alongside efforts of eradicating them.
Government agencies looking into the plight of the farmers dubbed the giant earthworms as threat to the preservation of the rice terraces, considered one of the eight wonders of the world.
Yet these wigglers should not be dubbed as a “threat.” Eliminating them with the use of chemicals would be more damaging. Their kind is sensitive to environmental pollutants such as herbicides and pesticides. Besides, expelling these worms could lessen the quality of the soil in the rice terraces.
Unknown is the fact that these earthworms provide the needed nutrients to the more than 2,000 year old rice producing soil. Researchers reveal that earthworms burrow themselves deep into the soil and pushes subsoil to the surface to mix with topsoil.
Writing on worms, Anne P. Michell says that slime, a secretion of earthworms, contains nitrogen which is an important nutrient for plants. She adds:
“Earthworms produce what is probably the most valuable poop in the world. They actually eat their way through packed soil, depositing behind them rich compost, which they have digested from nonliving organic matter. The result is the biologically crucial aeration and enrichment of the soil.
“In the judgment of no less a naturalist than Charles Darwin himself, ‘it may be doubted whether there are any other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly creatures’.”
Unlike their Bontoc neighbors in Mt. Province who use sunflower leaves to stimulate nourishment of their rice farms, Ifugao farmers since time immemorial do not fertilize their rice paddies yet have abundant harvests.
There are more than 4,400 different types of worms and of these are 2,700 species. A worm has both male and female organs. They mate by joining their clitella, the swollen area near their heads, and exchange sperms.
Worms survive in moisture and oxygen. It is said that there could be a million earthworms in a hectare of land. Their number in an area could be an indicator as to the acidity and contamination of the soil.
During the Marcos regime, vermin-culture was developing as a backyard industry. Processed, the meat is considered highly nutritious and recommended for hamburger and meatloaf preparation. A popular fast-food hamburger chain reportedly used the worm meat as it was cheaper that beef.
Vermin compost was also introduced out of kitchen refuge since there was no systematic collection of garbage then. Compost made out of worm poops command higher prices in western countries over regular fertilizers.
We wonder whatever happened to the vermin-culture (earthworm) industry.
To me, their arrogance is the type this world needs to hasten food production.
March 19, 2021
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