London: A new research has revealed that ants and termites have a significant positive impact on crop yields in dryland agriculture.
"Our studies on ants and termites in soil showed an average 36 per cent higher wheat crop yield under low tillage but otherwise conventional agricultural management," said CSIRO's Theo Evans.
"We believe there are two main reasons for the increase in yield. First, tunnels dug by ants and termites let more rain penetrate deeper into the soil where plants can access it, which also reduces runoff and evaporation. Second, the insects improve soil nitrogen, probably because termites have nitrogen fixing gut bacteria (functionally similar to those in the root nodules of legumes), which could help reduce fertilizer costs," Evans said.
"We suspected that ants and termites may be a useful management tool for farmers, based on previous knowledge gained from studies in natural ecosystems, but we were very surprised by the large size of their influence in agricultural systems," he said.
"The benefits of ants and termites are likely to be greatest in hot and dry climates where water is a limiting resource for plant growth, due to their positive effect on water infiltration into the soil," he added.
The study has been published in the journal ''Nature Communications''.
First Published: Sunday, April 03, 2011, 18:33