“I Have a Springtail Infestation”

When I am threw with a grow and replacing the BioChar and substrates in the container to grow another plant, I always keep an eye out for what I can see. I look for differences in root growth and infestations of arthropods. If things were done correctly, I always find Springtails, a beneficial arthropod, dominating the area in the bottom half of the container in the BC.  I find 100’s of thousands of the little white critters springing, walking and bouncing around, wondering who turned the lights on. But not to worry about this particular infestation. Springtails love moisture. They live out all their lives in the depths of the container, stimulating growth of your plants. Unless you are an organic soil technician, you probably don’t understand how substrates and soils work in the real world. Soil arthropods, soil microbes and roots work together as a combined system.

Stimulating Mycorrhizae & Controlling Pathogens

There are 3 main Orders of springtails. You can see the image of these to the right. The one we are concerned with is the white, Folsomia candida, belonging to the family Isotomidae.

There are 3 main Orders of springtails. Top one is Folsomia candida.

The subterranean environment is a web of organisms ranging from beneficial to pathogenic. The interactions among these organisms are very important for plant growth and health. Folsomia candida in the Biochar is feeding on fungal hyphael of mycorrhizae controlling fungal diseases. (Lubbock,1973). Grazing of mycorrhizae living on the roots of the plant can stimulate growth of the fungus which in turn, improves plant growth. Also, selective grazing by springtails is an important factor limiting the distribution of certain species of pathogenic fungi as well. They contribute to controlling plant fungal diseases through their active consumption of mycelia and spores of damping-off and pathogenic fungi. (Maria Agnese Sabatini & Gloria Innocenti (2001), Hiroyoshi Shiraishi, Yoshinari Enami & Seigo Okano (2003)) This effect is density-dependent. There should be a healthy population in the bottom biochar.

Most plants are slow in taking up phosphorus and other substances from the soil unless it has mycorrhizae on its roots. Mycorrhizae, literally meaning fungus roots, are thread like fungal bodies that interact with plant roots. The healthy growth of a plant can depend on the population of springtails living in the soil. Springtails live by eating the tips of the mycorrhizae. This stimulates the mycorrhizae to grow, dissolve more nutrients in the soil around it, and in turn, feed it to the plant.

More Reading about Springtails a Beneficial Arthropod

There is s very well written paper by Deepmala Verma and A.K. Paliwal, in Biological Forum — An International Journal called Effects of springtails community on plant-growth which details this symbiotic relationship in more detail.

Lubbock, J. Monograph of the Collembola and Thysanura; Ray
Society: London, 1973.

Maria Agnese Sabatini & Gloria Innocenti (2001). “Effects of Collembola on plant-pathogenic fungus interactions in simple experimental systems”. Biology and Fertility of Soils 33 (1): 62–66.

Hiroyoshi Shiraishi, Yoshinari Enami & Seigo Okano (2003). “Folsomia hidakana (Collembola) prevents damping-off disease in cabbage and Chinese cabbage by Rhizoctonia solani“. Pedobiologia 47 (1): 33–38.