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Can you solve our eelworm problem?


Photo: Eelworm infested potatoes

Photo: Eelworm infested potatoes

We realised that we had an eelworm problem in Danny’s potato border when we started to harvest them. The little front doors to the eelworm condominium look pretty insignificant until you venture inside. I reckon that at least half the crop is infected. We can eat the parts of the potatoes where no eelworm has dared to wriggle but so much of the harvest is wasted.

The only benefit is that we are well exercised walking back and forth from garden shed to kitchen to find enough spuds to feed us both for a meal. The Min Pins enjoy this hunting trip especially at night – when we take a torch.

I’m desperate to find a cure for this pest. Does anyone out there have a remedy for exterminating eelworm? Apart from giving up growing potatoes.

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  1. magic cochin

    Hi Fiona – looks like you’re getting lots of good advice about this. I agree that although growing potatoes on newly cultivated ground that has been turf is great as it breaks up the soil, the ground can harbour pests which have bred in the undisturbed turf thatch. Like Mary said – get the chooks onto it!

    When I saw your picture I imediately thought ‘keel slugs’ – they love to get into the spuds when it’s very dry, to find some moisture. Did you find any of the little black slugs in the potatoes? A good picture on the RHS site here:

    I don’t know much about eelworms, but I found a lot of info here:

    Hope you’re getting a little stronger each week.
    Best wishes

  2. i found the text below on hope it helps

    Potato Eelworms

    These are nematodes, tiny vegetarian worms, also endemic in many allotment plots. Your plants will die back early, and with severe infestations you may get very poor yields. If you want to confirm whether you have eelworm, carefully expose the roots of a plant, and look for pinhead sized white, yellow or brown cysts on the roots (a magnifying glass will help!). Control is not easy – the little sods can live for 20 years!

    * Rotation will reduce the population – it needs to be longer than 4 years if you have a serious problem.
    * Kestrel and Sante have some resistance to both white and golden eelworms; other varieties are resistant only to the golden.
    * If you have a serious eelworm infestation, your potato rotation should be longer than four years. Tagetes (French Marigolds) are said to discourage and kill vegetarian nematodes, such as eelworm. You would have to plant the whole potato bed the year before you grow your potatoes.

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Kate

    Thanks for all this info. Yes this is newly cultivated land, I don’t know why but I assumed it would be eelworm free!

    Great idea about wrapping the spuds in newspaper. Thank you.

    Hi Kate

    I think that it’s mainly eelworm damage. I burnt all the potato plants as I’m always concerned about blight.

    Hi JoannaS

    Right. I’ll be planting marigolds around the edge of D’s next potato bed. Then I’ll be able to test out David’s suggestion (on our forum) of using the petals as a substitute for saffron.

    Hello Pat

    Thanks a lot for the link. Great to have a list of spuds that are resistant to eelworm.

    Hi Mary

    Great idea – hadn’t thought of that.

    Hi Sarah

    Yes I think it might be worth going down the nematode route (they’re expensive in the UK too). The edible bits of Danny’s spuds are much tastier than the commercially produced ones.
    The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a nematode that kills eelworm.

    Hi Steve h

    Thank you. The chickens would love this too.

  4. Me got to agree with Mary (11th Oct), fence the area off, insert Chooks, dig over two/three times before planting time next year, very few insect/sluggy type adversaries! – Hens and a hard frost, gardeners equivalent of a “red sky at night”!

  5. Sarah Smith

    How disappointing to work so hard for the perfect potato crop to have it ruined by worms!

    Look into beneficial nematodes. I’ve used them to control many soil dwelling grubs and worms, including the worms in turnips and carrots. I did a little searching around on line and read a few places that they will attack the bad nematodes (eelworms?). The cost of the beneficial nematodes is pretty high here In the US, however they seem to do a good job on the “bad bugs” while not harming the “good bugs”

    Good luck with your eelworm fight!

  6. I garden with my chooks. If I have a pest problem I take them with me to the problem area – I dig, they feast on the problem. Works for me.

  7. Found this article – might be of some use

  8. Geoff Hamilton suggest planting French Marigolds as a repellent. Wonder if that is why many gardeners in Latvia plant them? Although that could be coincidence as Latvians love flowers.

  9. Resistant varieties, burn the old plants and roots…and then wait….is it also slug damage?

  10. We had bad eelworm in our potato crop last year, the first from the overgrown allotment that we’d taken on, and they are horrible little things which make a real mess of the spuds.They were worse on the maincrop floury varities than on the waxy or earlies. Bad news for Danny..

    I had a chat about them with some of the old-timers on the plots, and they said 2 things which might help you.

    1 – Eelworm’s always worst on newly cultivated ground, as it thrives in meadow grass. It will die away after 3 or 4 years.

    2 – In the meantime, when you plant your spuds in the spring, wrap each one in a sheet of newspaper before you plant. This magically keeps the eel worms away. I don’t know why, and neither did my allotment guru. It just does, she said.

    I did try this this year on the Desiree maincrops I grew, and no eelworm. The Lady Christls and Anyas I grew as earlies I didn’t bother with, but they were fine as well.

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