The objective of this experiment was to determine the effects of earthworms on soil N pools and plant growth in soybean and maize agroecosystems. The species and number of individuals in earthworm communities were manipulated in plot-scale field enclosures (2.4 m × 1.2 m) by first reducing earthworm populations within enclosures with carbaryl pesticide, and then adding earthworm treatments to the enclosures. Soybean was grown in the enclosures in the first year and stover maize in the second year.The success of earthworm manipulations in field enclosures was affected by climate conditions and available food resources. The endogeic earthworm species Aporrectodea caliginosa was dominant in all enclosures, while introduced anecic Lumbricus terrestris earthworms had poor survival. In the first season, when climate conditions were favourable for earthworm survival and growth, there was a significant (P < 0.05) linear increase in soil mineral-N and microbial biomass N concentrations in the 0–15 cm depth of enclosures with more earthworms. Similarly, soybean grain and grain-N yield was significantly (P < 0.05) greater in enclosures with the largest earthworm populations than the control which had no earthworms added. In the second season, when climate conditions were less favourable, there was no effect of earthworms on soil N pools or maize plants, probably due to poor survival of introduced earthworms.