Will earthworms eat plant roots?


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Will earthworms eat plant roots? I have an abundance of earthworms. But something down there is bothering the roots of my plants and i wanted to know if earthworms may be contributing to the problem. I know i have some black cockroach like looking beetles that are eating the roots and have started Neem drenches. I suspect i have nasty nematodes. And, i wonder if the earthworms are doing more harm than good?:rolleyes:
 
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We've always encouraged earthworms in our garden (burying a bit of kitchen waste, making sure the top few inches of soil don't dry out completely). I've never seen any root damage where the worms are most abundant.
Nematodes are a different matter--they do bore and do harm. Here is a site that explains the use of marigolds to deter nematodes. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ng045
We have inter-planted marigolds with our potatoes, turnips, carrots, and other root crops for years. I don't know if we didn't ever have nematodes or if the nematodes were repelled by the marigolds, but the marigolds do no harm and the seed is cheap so we have very decorative vegetable beds!
 
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Earthworms do NOT eat anything alive. Only decayed organic materials. Decayed roots yes! Living roots no. I wouldn't put much faith in the BBC or any major news network
 
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Okay, maybe you should tell that to the Journal of Soil Biology and Biochemistry and Dr. Nico Eisenhauer of the Georg-August-University Gottingen in Germany, published in 2010:

Confirmation that earthworms feed on living plants is published in the journal Soil Biology and Biochemistry by Dr Nico Eisenhauer of the Georg-August-University Göttingen in Germany. Here is a portion of the publication:


Earthworms function as seedling predators
Dr Nico Eisenhauer
With colleagues, Dr Eisenhauer made the discovery studying the behaviour of Lumbricus terrestris, an anecic earthworm that inhabits soils around the world.

Originating in Europe, the worm occurs in grasslands, agricultural fields and forests and is invading soils across the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Previous studies have shown that some earthworms will swallow plant seeds, while others appear to collect seeds, burying them in their burrows.
 
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Hard workers those Worms;) Sorting out the ground & if you have the worms your get the Birds:)
 
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Okay, maybe you should tell that to the Journal of Soil Biology and Biochemistry and Dr. Nico Eisenhauer of the Georg-August-University Gottingen in Germany, published in 2010:

Confirmation that earthworms feed on living plants is published in the journal Soil Biology and Biochemistry by Dr Nico Eisenhauer of the Georg-August-University Göttingen in Germany. Here is a portion of the publication:


Earthworms function as seedling predators
Dr Nico Eisenhauer
With colleagues, Dr Eisenhauer made the discovery studying the behaviour of Lumbricus terrestris, an anecic earthworm that inhabits soils around the world.

Originating in Europe, the worm occurs in grasslands, agricultural fields and forests and is invading soils across the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Previous studies have shown that some earthworms will swallow plant seeds, while others appear to collect seeds, burying them in their burrows.
I have been in the garden for over 60 years and I have NEVER seen earthworms do anything harmful. I couldn't care less what these "scientists" say. Go ahead and kill your worms and then see what you have.
 
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Oh yes, @Daren, the Birds in the morning are a bonus. Watching my seedlings disappear is not so happy.
@marlingardener, marigolds are very good and contain a natural source insecticide Pyrethrum, not that earthworms are insects, i am not sure what they are exactly or how they would react to Pyethrum. But insects don't like it. I tried to plant them here but they don't like the climate so much. It is nice to know that the earthworms eat bad nematodes, but mine don't seem to be very effective at that for their numbers. So i am giving them some help with Neem oil drenches.

@Chuck, just trying to save my seedlings and plants and i do believe in scientists, at least most of them. Sure there are some bad apples there, but the bad apples don't have a tendency of getting published in scientific journals;) No need to get your knickers in a bunch :LOL: Did i say i was going to kill all the worms? Where did i say that? but i think i need to reduce the numbers and provide them with some garbage to eat that might keep their minds off my plants and seedings.
 
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Oh yes, @Daren, the Birds in the morning are a bonus. Watching my seedlings disappear is not so happy.
@marlingardener, marigolds are very good and contain a natural source insecticide Pyrethrum, not that earthworms are insects, i am not sure what they are exactly or how they would react to Pyethrum. But insects don't like it. I tried to plant them here but they don't like the climate so much. It is nice to know that the earthworms eat bad nematodes, but mine don't seem to be very effective at that for their numbers. So i am giving them some help with Neem oil drenches.

@Chuck, just trying to save my seedlings and plants and i do believe in scientists, at least most of them. Sure there are some bad apples there, but the bad apples don't have a tendency of getting published in scientific journals;) No need to get your knickers in a bunch :LOL: Did i say i was going to kill all the worms? Where did i say that? but i think i need to reduce the numbers and provide them with some garbage to eat that might keep their minds off my plants and seedings.
Just what is happening to your seedlings and plants?
 
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The seedlings are disappearing, the plants have stunted growth and it is not the time of year for no growth. It is the time of year for new growth. The soil is warm. I haven't seen a slug in a long time, i don't have cut worms, i haven't seen the cutter ants in a long time and they always leave something behind, as do the slugs to indicate who did this. I have black beetles in the soil that i know chew on stems and roots and i am hoping to control them with the Neem drenches.I have watered the soil where i suspect they will be. The black beetles always come up to the surface when they are watered, but i haven't seen signs of them, but i wouldn't think one Neem drench or 2 drenches in some areas would have gotten entirely rid of them. I have space that isn't planted because i've been working on the soil so maybe that is why there are no black beetles there. I have been actively amending the soil with Neem, molasses, DE and organic compost. Epson Salts are on the way to my house. I have often wondered if the earthworms may be responsible. The black beetles are busy at work where you cannot see them. I see signs of them when i tug on a plant and it comes up with no roots or when i water. I really do have a lot of earthworms, there are dozens in every shovel full.
 
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The seedlings are disappearing, the plants have stunted growth and it is not the time of year for no growth. It is the time of year for new growth. The soil is warm. I haven't seen a slug in a long time, i don't have cut worms, i haven't seen the cutter ants in a long time and they always leave something behind, as do the slugs to indicate who did this. I have black beetles in the soil that i know chew on stems and roots and i am hoping to control them with the Neem drenches.I have watered the soil where i suspect they will be. The black beetles always come up to the surface when they are watered, but i haven't seen signs of them, but i wouldn't think one Neem drench or 2 drenches in some areas would have gotten entirely rid of them. I have space that isn't planted because i've been working on the soil so maybe that is why there are no black beetles there. I have been actively amending the soil with Neem, molasses, DE and organic compost. Epson Salts are on the way to my house. I have often wondered if the earthworms may be responsible. The black beetles are busy at work where you cannot see them. I see signs of them when i tug on a plant and it comes up with no roots or when i water. I really do have a lot of earthworms, there are dozens in every shovel full.
What do you mean your seedlings are disappearing? Are they there one day and completely gone the next? Are, or they falling over dead from soil level? Neem drench will not really hurt or kill anything except eggs when used as a drench. You need a contact killer such as spinosad. These black beetles, can you get a picture of them? When you see a plant withering and dying dig up the plant and the surrounding soil and see if there is anything there. Have you ever seen any June bugs flying around your lights at night?
 

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This might sound crazy, but if the seedlings are disappearing, is there any possibility the birds might be responsible for part of it?

Two years ago, I gave 10 tomato starts to my manager, and she said birds plucked out all but one of them. Some they merely pulled out and left on the ground, but she said she saw them fly off with three of them. She said it was robins, and some kind of blackbird. (Around here, it was probably a starling or grackle.)

I'm having a hard time believing earthworms are the culprit. :cautious: They're supposed to be the good guys!!
 
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@MaryMary...nice to see you again :), I hadn't even thought about birds but it is possible, maybe after the seed but taking the whole thing, root leaves, everything.
@MaryMary and @Esther Knapicius , don't be too certain. There were scientific studies published in 2010 saying that earthworms will also eat live roots of plants and seeds. Scroll up for the reference. Of course we are all familiar with their beneficial qualities. It did happen fairly close to the birdbath and the birds often cruise the stretch of soil close by.
 
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@Chuck, yes, they are completely gone (root, seed, vegetation), only a small hole where the plant was. That is what is so puzzling to me because there is usually some sign, something left behind, but no.

Those black beetles move so fast though the soil that it is all i can to is catch and squish. I will try to get a photo though. They have the look of a cockroach, darker in color, black/brown, without the long antennae. I think the largest one i have found is 1 inch and the smallest 1/2". I have always thought they must be cockroach related. I have often spotted a hole in the soil near a plant and suspecting these beetles will brush the soil near the trunk or stem of the plant and i see them and they scurry and dive. I have placed DE and cinnamon around the base of the plants.

June bugs, i had to look them up, i thought they were cicadas but i was clearly mistaken. The june bugs and cicadas both come, in adult form around may/june near the beginning of the rainy season. I notice them in the morning usually when it is much lighter. At night there are quite a few things around the lights and i don't really notice them so much. In the morning they are on the patio stones often on their backs. I have never noticed an abundance of these two bugs, but they do come.

What i have experienced with larger plants (suspecting the black/brown roachlike beetles) is that the plant is growing well, beautifully well actually and then what seems to be suddenly, all the leaves turh yellow and fall off and the plant is pretty much dead. I had a fairly large plant (a Choysia) that just up and dropped dead. I was going to pull it out of the soil thinking the roots would be deep so i was prepared for a big tug, i almost fell backwards because it came right out of the ground with no roots. So, some times i don't know there is a problem with a plant until it is too late to save it. I had an identical experience with Passiflora, every 3 years they would die.
 
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@Chuck, yes, they are completely gone (root, seed, vegetation), only a small hole where the plant was. That is what is so puzzling to me because there is usually some sign, something left behind, but no.

Those black beetles move so fast though the soil that it is all i can to is catch and squish. I will try to get a photo though. They have the look of a cockroach, darker in color, black/brown, without the long antennae. I think the largest one i have found is 1 inch and the smallest 1/2". I have always thought they must be cockroach related. I have often spotted a hole in the soil near a plant and suspecting these beetles will brush the soil near the trunk or stem of the plant and i see them and they scurry and dive. I have placed DE and cinnamon around the base of the plants.

June bugs, i had to look them up, i thought they were cicadas but i was clearly mistaken. The june bugs and cicadas both come, in adult form around may/june near the beginning of the rainy season. I notice them in the morning usually when it is much lighter. At night there are quite a few things around the lights and i don't really notice them so much. In the morning they are on the patio stones often on their backs. I have never noticed an abundance of these two bugs, but they do come.

What i have experienced with larger plants (suspecting the black/brown roachlike beetles) is that the plant is growing well, beautifully well actually and then what seems to be suddenly, all the leaves turh yellow and fall off and the plant is pretty much dead. I had a fairly large plant (a Choysia) that just up and dropped dead. I was going to pull it out of the soil thinking the roots would be deep so i was prepared for a big tug, i almost fell backwards because it came right out of the ground with no roots. So, some times i don't know there is a problem with a plant until it is too late to save it. I had an identical experience with Passiflora, every 3 years they would die.
I would lay money on either birds, field rats, mice or rabbits making off with your seedlings. Certainly not earthworms as they don't have a mouth to chew or swallow an entire little plant. I would bet rats because they made off with 30 good sized broccoli seedlings in two nights time about a month ago from my garden. As far the larger plants turning yellow and falling over dead. If this happens in the summer time I would say say it is grubs from those June bugs you see flying around in May/June. And they do eat roots, big time.
 
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I think the only chance of an earthworm eating the root of a plant is when it's in its very early stages of growth, but probably more of an accidental thing than deliberate thing, but I'm guessing. In short, I wouldn't worry about it. I have tons of worms in my garden and I don't have problems with seedlings sprouting.

I have to worry more about this animal around my seedlings https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armadillidiidae they also only eat decaying plant matter; however, a little seedling can be devoured by them. My fix is to remove all the mulch around the seedling, until it gets bigger, than I allow the mulch to recover the area. A lot of people see these roly pollies (AKA, Woodlice) as pest, but they're beneficial as far as I'm concerned, despite them being dangerous to very small seedlings.
 
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Thank you @Chuck...my garden is surrounded by house on 2 sides and 8 ft brick and concrete wall on the other 2 sides. No rabbits, no mice, no rats (field or otherwise), but birds are a possibility, they are making nests now and use coco fiber from the garden and maybe they are trying out seedlings as a new material or decor. The plants dropping dead with no roots always happens in September/October right when the rainy season is wrapping up. Thanks so much for your input.
 
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