Glyphosate but not Roundup® harms earthworms (Eisenia fetida)

Sharon Pochron, Leora Simon, Ashra Mirza, Anne Littleton, Feisal Sahebzada, Michael Yudell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup® formulations. While multiple studies have documented the toxicity, environmental persistence, and tendency to spread for glyphosate and Roundup®, few studies have compared the toxicity of glyphosate-based formulations to the toxicity of pure glyphosate for soil invertebrates, which contact both the herbicide and the formulations. Hundreds of formulations exist; their inert ingredients are confidential; and glyphosate persists in our food, water, and soil. In this experiment, we held glyphosate type and concentration constant, varying only formulation. Using Roundup Ready-to-Use III®, Roundup Super Concentrate®, and pure glyphosate, we delivered 26.3 mg glyphosate in the form of isopropylamine salt per kg of soil to compost worms (Eisenia fetida). We found that worms living in soil spiked with pure glyphosate lost 14.8–25.9% of their biomass and survived a stress test for 22.2–33.3% less time than worms living in uncontaminated soil. Worms living in soil spiked with Roundup Ready-to-Use III® and Roundup Super Concentrate® did not lose body mass and survived the stress test as well as worms living in uncontaminated soil. No contaminant affected soil microbial or fungal biomass over the 40-day period of this experiment. We suggest that the nitrates and phosphates in the formulations offset the toxic effects of glyphosate by spurring microbial growth and speeding glyphosate degradation. We also found a 26.5–41.3% reduction in fungal biomass across all treatments over the course of this experiment, suggesting that the worms consumed fungi and spores.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number125017
StatePublished - Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Earthworm diet
  • Earthworm health
  • Glyphosate-based herbicides
  • Soil health
  • Soil invertebrate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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