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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Managing Earthworm Castings (Oligochaeta: Lumbricidae) in Turfgrass using a Natural By-Product of Tea Oil (Camellia sp.) Manufacture

Authors
item Potter, Daniel -
item Redmond, Carl -
item Meepagala, Kumudini
item Williams, David -

Submitted to: Pest Management Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 5, 2009
Publication Date: April 1, 2010
Repository URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10113/41932
Citation: Potter, D.A., Redmond, C.T., Meepagala, K.M., Williams, D.W. April 2010. Managing Earthworm Castings (Oligochaeta: Lumbricidae) in Turfgrass using a Natural By-Product of Tea Oil (Camellia sp.) Manufacture. Pest Management Science. 66(4), pp:439-446.

Interpretive Summary: Earthworm casts are a problem on golf courses and sport fields when they disrupt the playability, aesthetics, and maintenance of playing surfaces. Abundant earthworms alongside airport runways can increase bird strike risk. Currently no pesticides are labeled for earthworms in the United States. We tested tea seed pellets (TSP), a by-product of Tea oil manufacture, for expelling earthworms and reducing castings on golf fields. Application of TSP at 2.93 kg/100 m2, followed by irrigation, quickly expelled earthworms from the soil. A single application reduced castings by 80–95% for at least 4 weeks. Mowing or sweeping removed expelled earthworms from putting green surfaces. Most expelled earthworms burrowed down when transferred to untreated turf, but relatively few survived. TSP is an effective botanical vermicide that could be useful for selectively managing earthworm castings on closely-mowed turfgrass, or for suppressing earthworms to reduce bird strike hazard at airports.

Technical Abstract: Earthworm casts are a problem on golf courses and sport fields when they disrupt the playability, aesthetics, and maintenance of playing surfaces. Abundant earthworms alongside airport runways can increase bird strike risk. Currently no pesticides are labeled for earthworms in the United States. We tested tea seed pellets (TSP), a saponin-rich by-product of Camellia oil manufacture, for expelling earthworms and reducing castings on creeping bentgrass turf. Fate of expelled worms, methods for removing them, and effects on pest and beneficial arthropods also were evaluated. Application of TSP at 2.93 kg/100 m2, followed by irrigation, quickly expelled earthworms from the soil. A single application reduced castings by 80–95% for at least 4 weeks. Mowing or sweeping removed expelled earthworms from putting green surfaces. Most expelled earthworms burrowed down when transferred to untreated turf, but relatively few survived. TSP did not reduce abundance of beneficial soil arthropods, nor did it control black cutworms or white grubs in treated turf. Bioassay guided fractionation of TSP was carried out and identified the active compounds as a very closely related saponins.

Last Modified: 11/23/2014
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