Nematodes in space

AstroNematode: Biocontrol Agent

Significant BioAg Practice Advancing Pest Control

Heroes can come from the most unexpected places. Particularly, a tiny worm like an AstroNematode of the soil microbe biome can be a valiant protector of high value crops. This post explains how.

Biocontrol and its advantages

Chemical pesticides are traditionally used as defense against crop damage. But chemical agents can be restricted, as in the production of certified organic crops. Good reasons exist for not using chemicals (better for the health of people and planet), and the reality is that pests happen. Enter biocontrol. Biocontrol, instead of chemical sprays, uses natural pest predators to protect crops. A common example is when gardeners release lady beetles (a.k.a. ladybugs) to control aphid populations. Homeowners may also be familiar with “Mosquito Dunks®” to control mosquito populations in standing water. That treatment contains a harmless (to humans) bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, which eats mosquito larvae.

The advantages of biocontrol include:

  • Treatment is specifically targeted to the pest and doesn’t harm other beneficial organisms like honeybees.
  • Humans remain safe because they are unaffected by the biocontrol organism.
  • No chemicals are used that might persist in the environment or migrate into drinking water.

Biocontrols can be used where chemical pesticides are restricted, such as organic growing facilities, or for crops that must meet strict standards of low chemical pesticide residue.

Nematodes – like AstroNematode – can be biocontrol agents.

Nematodes are tiny – usually microscopic – roundworms that are part of the soil microbe biome. Despite their small size, they are estimated to account for 80% of all individual animals on land. One type, entomopathogenic nematodes – EPNs for short, are actively beneficial for crop growth because they target and destroy crop damaging insects. One such EPN, Steinernema feltiae from the AstroNematode project, was recently even studied aboard the International Space Station.

Why so much interest in AstroNematode? Because this little guy is already being used in crop protection. SymSoil’s President of Science, Katharine Hinson, has shown that the AstroNematode species can control thrips and fungus knats when applied to crops grown indoors. It is now available for sale from SymSoil® (insert hyperlink to shopping cart) to use in a variety of applications from indoor cultivation facilities to outdoor orchards and gardens.

Try this astro-charged organic benefit for healthier crops.


About SymSoil

SymSoil Inc., a Benefit Corporation (B), is a leader in development of biological soil amendments for agriculture that restores the microbes that provide the right food to the plant roots, improving plant health, and making food more tasty and nutrient dense, the way nature intended. SymSoil has products and services for growers using regenerative agriculture methodologies which improve profitability.

SymSoil®  RC is our flagship product.  Robust Compost is a complex community of soil microbes, which includes in excess of 1,000 species, covering broad biodiversity of bacteria, fungi, amoebae, and other protozoa, beneficial nematodes and microarthropods. SymSoil was named one of 2019’s AgTech Companies to Watch.

For more information, please contact us at 833-SYMSOIL (833-796-7645)

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