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Garden Allies: Soil Microarthropods

Articles: Garden Allies: Soil Microarthropods

Springtails. IIllus: Craig Latker

Tiny but Essential Denizens of the Soil

An inquiry came my way, some years ago, from a worried homeowner who had second thoughts about instructing his gardener to remove thirty yards of newly spread compost because it was full of what appeared to be tiny hopping insects. Springtails, the tiny arthropods that precipitated the hasty compost removal, are ubiquitous in gardens and play an essential role in decomposition of organic materials. They are seldom noticed but can be present in great abundance in leaf litter, compost, and other organic materials. Although the homeowner was relieved to learn that the compost was safe, the gardener may have been less pleased about having moved so much compost three times.

The soil food web includes many species of tiny arthropods, known collectively as "microarthropods." In an earlier article (see Pacific Horticulture, October 2010), we explored the almost invisible world of soil microorganisms: bacteria, actinomycetes, protozoans, algae, and others. Microarthropods and other small soil animals are visible (sometimes barely so) but ...

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