Some nematodes have given the whole tribe a bad name. This is because they eat roots of plants and are harmful to the plants. Most, though, are beneficial to plants. They are tiny worms that are usually not visible ‐ the larger ones look like small hairs. They are the second most dominant form of animal life on the planet (after arthropods ‐ tiny mites) in terms of their numbers. Scientists have identified 20,000 species of them and speculate that there are many more not yet identified. In your soil and on the surfaces of plant leaves they eat bacteria, fungi, and other types of nematodes, making the minerals and nutrients stored in these other microbes available to the plants through their roots or leaf surfaces.
How do Nematodes Help?
Nematodes have great digestive systems for minerals ‐ bonding each ion in a mineral molecule to a protein molecule ‐ thus making the minerals much easier for plants to absorb and use. They are the most aggressive of the micro‐ organisms found in soil. Under the microscope, you can see them squirm and attack other microbes. They are also the most mobile and carry bacteria and sometimes fungi through the soil, helping to spread beneficial micro‐organisms. In one teaspoon of healthy soil there are 40 ‐ 50 of various types of them found.
How To Get More Good Nematodes
To enrich your soil with them, add good compost. Compost made with some portion of horse manure seems to be the richest source of nematodes. Using compost rather than chemicals (which kill nematodes) is the most effective way to develop healthy soil, rich with micro‐organisms like nematodes. Nematodes are active and powerful micro‐organisms who are an essential part of our life on earth.