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October 20, 2022 26 min

Think most nematodes are parasitic? Actually, the majority are beneficial and can provide biological control for bacteria, fungi and other nematodes. Deborah Neher, Professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Science at the University of Vermont explains that the name nematode in Latin means roundworm. But do not confuse these worms with the common earthworm. They have a very simple anatomy that is purely dedicated to eating and reproduction. The microscopic, aquatic organisms live in water films that surround soil particles. Nematodes are the most numerous soil-dwelling animal and can live in extreme conditions. Listen in to learn how nematodes fit into a healthy soil system.


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Craig Macmillan  0:00 

And with me today is Dr. Deborah Neher. She's a professor at University of Vermont and has done some really, really interesting work on soil health in particular, micro organisms and what role they play. And so today we're gonna talk about nematodes. I'm excited.


Deborah Neher  0:15 

Yeah, it's great to be here. nematodes get me excited too. Been working on it for like 30 years now, believe it or not.


Craig Macmillan  0:22 

I believe it. First of all, let's drop back a second. And we're talking about healthy soil soil health, the role that these organisms play in that. What is your definition of a healthy soil, I think that's kind of a tough thing.


Deborah Neher  0:33 

Sure. And I know everybody has a slightly different version. But just to keep it really short and succinct, it needs to be porous, it needs to be chemically balanced, as well as containing organic matter. Let me just elaborate on those briefly. We need a range of pore sizes in soil to help give it good structure and that also allows for a balance of water and oxygen, so that the plants and the microbes can live and have air to breathe. We need a chemically balanced both the nutrients as well as a pH. And as far as organic matter it plays a number of different roles. It can hold moisture and nutrients kind of like a sponge. And that's also where we have the biological activity happening. And organic matter has negative charges on its surface the nutrients have positive charges so they can attract you know like magnets with opposite charges. You know, organic amendments usually come with microbes as well as nutrients so they're bringing the life into soil and supporting that.


Craig Macmillan  1:31 

And speaking of life, that's what a lot of your work has been the the soil m

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