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Soil moisture impacts the speed of nematodes

Did you know one of the oldest life forms on Earth can be found in your backyard? Soil nematodes have been thriving in habitats around the world for at least 400 million years. Even though they are only 1/500th of an inch wide and 1/20th of an inch long, these worm-like animals are an important part of almost every ecosystem.

Sebastián González Bernal is a researcher at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso in Chile. He studies a type of nematode called Meloidogyne ethiopica. This is a highly aggressive plant-parasitic nematode species. His team examined the speed of Meloidogyne ethiopica under different soil moisture conditions. This study was published in Agronomy Journal, a publication of the American Society of Agronomy.

Using tomato plants, the researchers set up an experiment. The plant-parasitic nematodes were placed into the soil at different soil moisture levels and multiple distances from the plant roots. The researchers then monitored a microscopic race to see how long it would take for the nematodes to reach the tomato plant roots.

The nematodes were given up to 26 days to reach the finish line. “Knowing the speed of migration nematodes has enormous applications for farmers because they can control damage to plants by managing irrigation frequency,” González Bernal explains.

Nematodes in the driest soil were the slowest, showing little to no movement. This indicates that nematodes can’t travel as quickly in soils with less moisture, which is useful information for farmers. “Damage to plants could be controlled through proper management of the frequency of irrigation,” González Bernal says.

Read the complete research at


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