Orchard floor management effect on soil free-living nematode communities

Gil Eshel, Adrian Unc, Roey Egozi, Efrat Shakartchy, Tirza Doniger, Yosef Steinberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Context: Although both plant cover and mulch are considered for erosion control in arid and semi-arid regions, they have divergent impacts on soil ecology. Aim: We examined the effects of orchard floor management practices on the density and diversity of soil free-living nematode communities and relevant soil abiotic properties. Methods: Soils were sampled in winter in a citrus orchard in the Sharon region of Israel from plots that for 6 years had been under (1) annual native species; or (2) Avena sativa and Vicia villosa, planted between tree rows; or (3) woodchip mulching along tree rows. There were two control sites: (4) bare soil between tree rows and (5) bare soil along the tree rows (both common practice). Key results: Nematode communities and their trophic diversity were significantly impacted by floor management. Significant increases in soil moisture under plant cover, and higher organic matter and water-holding capacity for all covered orchard floors could be related to nematode changes. Shifts in nematode feeding group structure suggest a shift in the type and availability of soil carbon pools. Conclusions: There was a strong association between orchard floor management and soil free-living nematode communities, indicating a shift in the soil food-web structure and functionality. Bare soil harboured fewer nematodes, but more complex communities dominated by persisters, while seeded plant cover had a greater nematode abundance dominated by coloniser communities, indicating increased availability of resources. Implications: Results reveal the importance of integrating biological information in performance index determinations for improving soil management decisions, suggesting these relationships as sensitive bio-indicators of soil health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)310-319
Number of pages10
JournalSoil Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s) (or their employer(s)). Published by CSIRO Publishing.


  • cover crops
  • functional diversity
  • mediterranean
  • mulching
  • nematodes
  • orchard
  • soil degradation
  • soil ecology


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