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By Rob Jenkins, C.K. Jain

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The sum of structures deposited over time by these organisms have specific textural, structural and architectural properties that influence the physical-chemical properties of soil and the smaller fauna and microflora thdt live in this environment. ) that have been accumulated by soil organisms can be colonised by rather specific communities of microorganisms, other invertebrates and possibly roots. The environment in these structures can be very different from that of soil. For example, the availability of C, mineral N and P that can be assimilated may be enhanced significantly in fresh earthworm casts or fresh termite pellets when compared with the ingested soil.

Predation, parasitism, 'mutualism and competition). There are several main groups of biogeniC structures that are commonly found in agricultural systems, with different importance and consequences in agro-ecosystems. Earthworm Casts Depending on the size of the earthworms that produce them, casts may range from some millimetres to several centimetres in diameter, VVt~ighing only a ft'w grams or more than 400 g: Granular: These casts are very small and are formed by isolated faecal pellets. These casts can be found on the soil surface or in the soil, and are generally produced by epigeic earthworms.

The quality and quantity of leaf litter and the important root production create a particular soil environment that favours the development of i'l rather diverse and abundant soil macrofauna. When vegetation is cleared and the soil used for cropping, the communities of soil macrofauna are highly depleted as a consequence of an important modification of soil microclimate, the reduction in the quantity and quality of organic matter, the physical perturbation induced by tillage, and the effects of fertilisers and non-targeted pesticides.

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