The View from Below: On Energy in Soils (and Food)


Earthworms and other soil biota create, by means of their metabolism, the niche in which they thrive—the humus-rich, loose soil with lots of nutrient minerals that agriculturalists find the most productive for rearing plants. Therefore, niche construction should be incorporated into an understanding of agriculture. One can describe agriculture as a human effort of cultural niche creation, but it can also be seen as worms domesticating humans to co-create their niche. This article looks at the energy investment that goes into the provision of nutrients and into habitat improvement for the subterranean workforce of earthworms on which agriculture depends.