Nematodes: Predator and Prey

Nematode Role In The Soil Food Web

nematode taken by Val Stow of Harmony Foodscapes

Nematodes are another important predator in the soil. They fall in the 3rd and 4th tropic level of the soil food web.

There are 5 types of nematodes I look for while doing soil assessments:

  • bacterial feeding (consume bacteria)
  • fungal feeding (consume fungi)
  • omnivores (eat both bacteria and fungi
  • predatory (mainly eat root feeding nematodes)
  • root feeding (eat the roots of plants and can cause server damage or plant death)

The first 4 are beneficial. The last one occurs in low oxygen (anaerobic) conditions. Root feeding nematodes are the most commonly known, because they attract attention by damaging your plants.  When using a pesticide to control root feeding nematodes, you are also killing off the good guys.  

You don’t have a root feeding nematode problem you have a lack of predatory nematodes and anaerobic conditions!

Just as with protozoa, when a nematode eats other organisms in the soil, they expel the excess nutrients in plant available forms (the poop loop).

Nematodes are food for earthworms, micro  arthropods and other higher level tropic layer organisms that make up the soil food web.

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