Soil organisms provide the foundation for such critical processes as soil structure development, nutrient cycling, decomposition, and pest control. To attain the goal of sustainable agriculture, growers will need to manage soil organisms to promote nutrient cycling and suppress pests. Currently, many soil-borne insect pests are controlled using soil insecticides. Under current federal re-evaluation many soil insecticides will no longer be available. Therefore, biological pest control alternatives will be needed. Naturally occurring predatory microarthropods and insect-parasitic nematodes serve as an effective force in controlling soil-dwelling pest species. This information can be used to devise ways to exploit beneficial soil organisms and properties, suppress pests, and enhance agricultural sustainability. Two field experiments, conducted at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) monitored the response of soil invertebrates in both no-till and conventionally-tilled corn to treatments of insect-parasitic nematodes. Three strains of insect-parasitic nematodes (Two indigenous and one commercially available strain) were applied either inundatively or via an infected insect cadaver. Soil samples were then collected at 4 and 24-hour time intervals and invertebrates were extracted using modified Tullgren funnels, enumerated and identified. Invertebrate responses were assessed at the level of abundance, species richness and community composition. While effects of time and tillage type are expressed in abundance and species richness, specific interactions and responses to individual nematode treatments are best ascertained at the level of community composition.
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