Research Publication Title

Nematodes as Indicators of Soil Health Impacted by Soil Texture on Salamander Springs Farm

Major

Environmental Science

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Allison VandeVoort

Keywords

soil health, nematodes, soil texture, indicators

Abstract

The presence of nematode communities, free-living or parasitic, can be used to assess soil health and conditions. Nematodes can indicate whether nutrients in soil are being mineralized for plant growth, and their presence regulates the decomposition process by affecting the growth of microbes within soil. Nematodes are the most ubiquitous invertebrates within soil ecosystems, and measuring their abundance provides an accurate indicator of soil health. The texture of soil is indicative of soil aeration, hydraulic conductivity, water holding capacity, nutrient cycling, etc. Since nematodes are aerobic organisms, their ideal soil texture should have a continuous flow of oxygen and moisture. Assessing soil textural class can improve our understanding about the soil structure different types of nematodes prefer, and in turn, can heighten our knowledge of using nematodes as an indicator of soil quality. Soil from Salamander Springs Farm, a small, sustainable permaculture farm in Milledgeville, GA, has had decades of management via compost amendments and other soil-building practices. We analyzed Salamander Springs soil for textural class and nematode abundance. Soil texture was measured using the hydrometer method to assess fraction of each soil separate. We used the Baermann funnel method to extract nematodes, which we then enumerated using a dissecting microscope. Based on these data, we were able to compare which soil management methods best support nematode communities.

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Nematodes as Indicators of Soil Health Impacted by Soil Texture on Salamander Springs Farm

The presence of nematode communities, free-living or parasitic, can be used to assess soil health and conditions. Nematodes can indicate whether nutrients in soil are being mineralized for plant growth, and their presence regulates the decomposition process by affecting the growth of microbes within soil. Nematodes are the most ubiquitous invertebrates within soil ecosystems, and measuring their abundance provides an accurate indicator of soil health. The texture of soil is indicative of soil aeration, hydraulic conductivity, water holding capacity, nutrient cycling, etc. Since nematodes are aerobic organisms, their ideal soil texture should have a continuous flow of oxygen and moisture. Assessing soil textural class can improve our understanding about the soil structure different types of nematodes prefer, and in turn, can heighten our knowledge of using nematodes as an indicator of soil quality. Soil from Salamander Springs Farm, a small, sustainable permaculture farm in Milledgeville, GA, has had decades of management via compost amendments and other soil-building practices. We analyzed Salamander Springs soil for textural class and nematode abundance. Soil texture was measured using the hydrometer method to assess fraction of each soil separate. We used the Baermann funnel method to extract nematodes, which we then enumerated using a dissecting microscope. Based on these data, we were able to compare which soil management methods best support nematode communities.