Could vermicast be a solution to my soil bourne Nematode problem?
Well, first of all what are Nematodes and are they all bad.
Soil Nematodes By Elaine R. Ingham covers this nicely, see the full article here.
THE LIVING SOIL: NEMATODES
Nematodes are non-segmented worms typically 1/500 of an inch (50 µm) in diameter and 1/20 of an inch (1 mm) in length. Those few species responsible for plant diseases have received a lot of attention, but far less is known about the majority of the nematode community that plays beneficial roles in soil.
An incredible variety of nematodes function at several trophic levels of the soil food web. Some feed on the plants and algae (first trophic level); others are grazers that feed on bacteria and fungi (second trophic level); and some feed on other nematodes (higher trophic levels).
Free-living nematodes can be divided into four broad groups based on their diet.
· Bacterial-feeders consume bacteria.
· Fungal-feeders feed by puncturing the cell wall of fungi and sucking out the internal contents.
· Predatory nematodes eat all types of nematodes and protozoa. They eat smaller organisms whole, or attach themselves to the cuticle of larger nematodes, scraping away until the prey’s internal body parts can be extracted.
· Omnivores eat a variety of organisms or may have a different diet at each life stage. Root-feeders are plant parasites, and thus are not free-living in the soil.
What Do Nematodes Do?
Nutrient cycling. Like protozoa, nematodes are important in mineralizing, or releasing, nutrients in plant-available forms. When nematodes eat bacteria or fungi, ammonium (NH4+) is released because bacteria and fungi contain much more nitrogen than the nematodes require.
Grazing. At low nematode densities, feeding by nematodes stimulates the growth rate of prey populations. That is, bacterial-feeders stimulate bacterial growth, plant-feeders stimulate plant growth, and so on. At higher densities, nematodes will reduce the population of their prey. This may decrease plant productivity, may negatively impact mycorrhizal fungi, and can reduce decomposition and immobilization rates by bacteria and fungi. Predatory nematodes may regulate populations of bacterial-and fungal-feeding nematodes, thus preventing over-grazing by those groups. Nematode grazing may control the balance between bacteria and fungi, and the species composition of the microbial community.
Dispersal of microbes. Nematodes help distribute bacteria and fungi through the soil and along roots by carrying live and dormant microbes on their surfaces and in their digestive systems.
Food source. Nematodes are food for higher level predators, including predatory nematodes, soil microarthropods, and soil insects. They are also parasitized by bacteria and fungi.
Disease suppression and development. Some nematodes cause disease. Others consume disease-causing organisms, such as root-feeding nematodes, or prevent their access to roots. These may be potential biocontrol agents.
Using vermiculture to control Nematode populations.
M.H. Panhwar and Farzana Panhwar in there paper “EARTHWORMS, VERMICASTS AND VERMI-CULTURE EXPERIENCE IN SINDH” say, Worms eat soil nematodes and reduce their population to almost one third. Thus no chemical nematocides are needed when adequate mulching is done.
Blueprint for a Successful Vermiculture Compost System. Developed by Dan Holcombe and J.J. Longfellow 1995 says, Redworm castings contain a high percentage of humus. Humus helps soil particles form into clusters, which create channels for the passage of air and improve its capacity to hold water. Humic acid present in humus, provides binding sites for the plant nutrients but also releases them to the plants upon demand. Humus is believed to aid in the prevention of harmful plant pathogens, fungi, nematodes and bacteria.
R.E. Gaddie and D.E. Douglas, Earthworms For Ecology and Profit, Vol. I “Scientific Earthworm Farming,” 1975, p. 175. Earthworm castings, in addition to their use as a potting soil, can be used as a planting soil for trees, vegetables, shrubs, and flowers. They may be used as a mulch so that the minerals leach directly into the ground when watered. The effects of earthworm castings used in any of these ways are immediately visible. They make plants grow fast and strong. Nematodes and diseases will not ruin gardens or plants if the soil is rich enough for them to grow fast. It is the weak plant in poor soil that is destroyed by nematodes and diseases.
Clive A. Edwards, Norman Q. Arancon, Eric Emerson, and Ryan Pulliam, Soil Ecology Laboratory, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH.
SUPPRESSION OF PLANT PARASITIC NEMATODES AND ARTHROPOD PESTS BY VERMICOMPOST ‘TEAS’ says We have demonstrated clearly that solid vermicomposts can suppress plant parasitic nematodes in the field (Arancon et al, 2003). Our experiments on the effects of vermicompost ‘teas’ on nematodes were in the laboratory and greenhouse, in soils that had been artificially infested with the root knot of nematode (Meloidogyne incognita), which is a very serious pest of a wide range of crops all over the world. Read the full paper here.
So vermicast will indeed help with your nematode problem.
By boosting plant immune systems, creating a healthy balanced soil food web environment and introducing earthworm populations to control your nematode population.