Sampling for Regional Monitoring of Nematode Communities in Agricultural Soils


  • D. A. Neher
  • C. L. Campbell


Regional assessment of nematode communities to monitor the condition or ecological health of agricultural soils requires sampling programs with measures of known reliability and the ability to detect differences over time. Numbers of fields sampled in a region, samples taken per field, and subsamples assayed per sample must be balanced with cost to provide the best sampling scheme. We used components of variance from statewide surveys in North Carolina (1992) and Nebraska (1993) to estimate number of (i) fields to be sampled; (ii) 20-core, composite soil samples to be obtained for each field; and (iii) subsamples to be assayed for each composite sample to detect a specified amount of change in index values within a geographic region. Variances for these three components were used to estimate the degree of reliability for five ecologically based indices (four measures of maturity and one of diversity) of nematode communities. Total variance for maturity and diversity indices, based upon communities of free-living nematodes, was greater in North Carolina than in Nebraska; the opposite was true for indices based strictly upon maturity of communities of plant-parasitic nematodes or of all nematodes in soil. Variability within samples was greater in North Carolina than in Nebraska, especially for maturity indices based only upon free-living nematodes. We identified two possible sampling strategies for a regional survey: Option 1, with two independent samples per field and a single subsample assayed per sample, which would provide a reliability ratio value =0.6 for most indices; and Option 2, with three independent samples per field and two subsamples assayed per sample, which would provide a reliability ratio value =0.7 for several indices. When cost was considered, Option 1 was the better strategy. Number of fields to be sampled within a region or state varied with the index chosen; with specific indices, however, a 10% change in mean index value could be detected with a sample of 50 to 100 fields. Key words: ecology, maturity index, monitoring, nematode community, power curve, regional, reliability ratio, survey, trophic diversity, variance component.