No laughing matter, this

Published: Monday 31 August 1998

Common garden earthworms ooze nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas. As a greenhous gas, these exhalations could contribute to global warming, German researchers warned the recently-concluded meeting of the American Society of Microbiology in Atlanta, USA. Carola Matthies and her col-leagues from the University of Bayreuth in Germany were sur-prised to discover that nitrous oxide production was, on an average, five times higher in worm-infested soil as compared to soil without any earthworms. Matthies and her team of researchers believe that the worms account for as much as 25 per cent to 44 per cent of all the nitrous oxide produced in the gardens. "It was indeed a surprise," said Matthies, who believes that the earthworms produce the gas by digesting nitrates and nitrites usually present in the garden soil.

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