Title Thesis: Covering ground: Insights into soil ecology by molecular monitoring of nematode assemblages.
A thermometer for soil health.
Although not immediately apparent, each handful of soil contains tens of thousands of different organisms. They are generally small and have inconspicuous colors. These soil dwelling organisms fulfill a multitude of functions; as a whole, the soil community processes dead plant material creating a layer of soil that holds water and contains nutrients available to growing plants. These soil functions are vital and should be treated with care.
The Dutch government requested us to develop a tool for monitoring of effects of genetically modified crops on soil life. As it is practically impossible to monitor soil life in its entirety, we chose to use nematodes, small worm-shaped animals, as an indicator group for soil health. Since microscopic analysis of nematodes is difficult and time-consuming, we use a method, which allows us to identify and quantify nematodes based on their DNA. While our results revealed that plant species, seasonality and rainfall had great influence on soil life, we could not detect an effect of the genetically modified potato cultivar that we included in our study.