Nematodes are everywhere, and growers are most familiar with parasitic nematodes that create significant damage in cropping systems. However, Post-Doctoral Researcher with Oregon State University, Ashley Shaw said that certain types of lesser-known nematodes can be helpful for farming operations.
“These beneficial ones, or what we’re calling beneficial, are usually in these other feeding groups,” Shaw noted. “They’re usually the ones that eat bacteria, or eat fungi, or eat other nematodes.”
Helpful nematode groups can recycle nutrients in the soil, return nitrogen to plant roots, and even keep parasitic nematode populations in check. Shaw has been actively engaged in researching ways to improve populations of beneficial nematodes in the soil. Adding organic material to soils, cover cropping, and reduced tillage all appear to have a positive impact in supporting beneficial nematode habitat. Shaw explained that soil disturbances and repeated applications of pesticides can take a significant toll on beneficial nematode populations.
“These parasitic groups really benefit from these disturbed conditions. When those populations get out of balance that’s when you start to see the problem,” said Shaw. “As we improve soil health across the board it is improving the habitat for the beneficial nematodes. We do see that their populations go up as we change practices to improve soil health.”
Listen to the full episode with Ashley Shaw.
‘Making Sense of Biologicals’ is a series from AgNet West that dives into various topics with unbiased experts in the field of biologics to help the industry better understand the product category.
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