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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. Wilfhound

    As an agricultural student some 25 years ago I did a placement with a potato seed breeding firm.

    We did some trials using an agricultural mustard which was allowed to grow and then was rotavated into the soil much as you would as if growing a green manure crop. Potatoes were then planted thye following spring The decaying mustard was found to reduce potato and sugar-beet cyst eelworm numbers and virtually eliminate damage from them.

    I believe the plant breeders rights of the particular strain of mustard seed was bought up by a multi-national agro-chemical company and has never been heard of since. However I do feel it is still probably worth trying green-manuring with mustard before potatoes where crop rotations allow.

  2. Doug Will

    Have you ever thought of watering the soil with Jeyes Fluid I spoke to one of the older gardeners and that is what they recommendIf done in the autumn ground will be ready for planting following spring

  3. Bob Ward

    Please strike out last comment. My pests are a type of millipede.You need pictures on this site.Thanks anyway

  4. Bob Ward

    To me it seems silly to wrap your seed potato in newspaper as that one will die away anyway, your not interested in that one. So how do you wrap each individual potato as it develops? I’ve been breaking up the soil by hand sorting out stones and have found eelworms and their eggs, about 1mm in size. The robin accompanying me enjoyed them. Are eel worms orange or copper coloured. I found both, the copper ones being smaller.

  5. try going to they sell seeds of Foil-sis(branstons). Apparently an inedible version of potatoes which stimulates eelworm eggs in surreounding soil to hatch, they then find nothing to eat and die. The plants are planted where the potatoes are to grow but planted the year before. Presumably there are no eelworms left in that section of the plot. Apparently if you plant them in yearly rotation you will (hopefully) kill off the eelworm population in your plot. Good luck.

  6. Reply to mani. Don’t buy expensive spud bags. Go to IKEA and buy their small blue bags – last year 15 pence each. I tried them and they worked, so will reuse them again. I recon you should get at least 5 years out of them. They are about 30 cm (12″) x 30 cm x 30 cm ish.

  7. Hi, I’m only a youngster here but i enjoy growing lots of veg. I used to grow Kind Edwards for 2 years and 1st time round i got very small potatos and some with holes, didn’t know what it was other than assuming it was an insect of some sort. Reason for small spuds was that my soil is very clay like so i guess the spuds’ growth may have been restricted. Now i rotivated the soil with the help of a good neighbour with sand and compost and made a big v shape mound with my dad and inserted the potato seed inside and got nice big King edwards but again the yield was small as some got badly eaten by what i was told was worms. The person who sells the potato seeds recommended Nadine variety as its resistant to worms. its not as floury as King Edwards so not sure how much my chef dad will like them. The other option is to grow them in those spud bags, bit expensive though or keep hens and let them loose when you rotated the soil over 🙂

  8. Oh how disappointing – poor Danny (and you Fiona). It’s so hard when it all looks well and then you dig up to discover a problem; at least with surface crop you stand a fighting chance. I still have some parsnips to dig up – the 1st lot were good so fingers crossed that all’s well now it’s getting late in the year and hopefully all the pests are dying/sleeping.

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hello MikeP

    Thank you so much for all this information, much appreciated. I’m determined to get the better of these nasty worms.

    Hi Celia

    I took a look at the links and I don’t think that it’s slug damage. We didn’t see any when we dug up the spuds but there again we were not looking for them. I though that I saw tiny white worms in some spuds but now have discovered that they are microscpoic so I must get my eyes tested immediately.

    Hi Jen

    I reckon that it’s definitely worth considering Foil-sis – thanks so much for the link.

    After two years of blight I sprayed my spuds with Bordeaux mixture (was considered organic until a year or so ago) and this seemed to keep the blight at bay.

  10. Sorry to hear about your eelworm problem. I wonder if foil-sis might help? I’ve seen it growing at Garden Organic and I think they have some at the moment at Audley End. Here’s a link to Alan Romans which explains how it works.
    Unfortunately I’ve not had any luck with it myself as I’ve not been able to get the foil-sis to germinate but I’m going to try again next year although first drought and then blight were more serious problems for my potatoes this year. Best wishes Jen

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