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Soil Creature Feature: Nematodes: Good or Bad?

We often blog about how soil is a living organism; we bet by now you’re wondering what exactly lives in your soil. This week we kick off our soil Creature Feature with Nematodes!

We often blog about how soil is a living organism; we bet by now you’re wondering what exactly lives in your soil. This week we kick off our soil Creature Feature with Nematodes!


We love our nerdy MicroFauna flash cards!

What are nematodes?

Nematodes are microfauna; tiny, multicellular, worm-like organisms that live in your soil. They’re so small they can only be seen under a microscope. Their slender, smooth and unsegmented bodies resemble tiny worms. Some nematodes are beneficial, eating pests that can damage our pests. Others nematodes damage our plants by eating living plant matter.

The Good

Beneficial nematodes can be used as a powerful and natural solution to a number of destructive pests in our soil. They allow us to rid your landscapes of harmful pests without the use of harmful chemicals. Beneficial nematodes attack  grubs and other soft bodied organisms in the soil. Typically, they attack pests in their larval stage. Beneficial nematodes can also be used to treat for fire ants and fleas in your landscape. They can even rid your houseplants of fungus gnats.

How do beneficial nematodes do their thing? Once the nematode finds a prey pests, they enter it’s body. Once inside the larva, they release a toxic bacteria that kills it within 24-48 hours. The nematode then feeds on the bacteria inside the larva. Once their food is exhausted, they move on to a new host. While in the soil, beneficial nematodes feed on decaying matter in the soil, then release it back as waste that adds further nutrients that improve soil structure. So they’re not only important predators, but also good soil builders.

The Bad

Destructive nematodes also live in the soil and feed on plant roots; they damage plant stems with sharp mouthpieces that pierce through cell walls to suck out water and nutrients. Once the plant roots have sustained so much damage, they’re no longer able to take up their own water and nutrients. Roots that are damaged are also much more susceptible to pests, disease and drought.

When you have a balanced, organic landscape, you’ll encourage the right kinds of life in the soil such as beneficial nematodes. They’ll help you keep your lawn “barefoot approved”!

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Soils Alive is an active member of the Agronomy Society of America (ASA), Soil Science Society of America (SSSA), and Crop Science Society of America (CSSA).

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