Root-knot Nematode Lowers Vegetable Crop Yields in the Central Valley
By Kyle Buchoff, California Ag Today Reporter
Nematodes are generally harmless, tiny roundworms found in the soil. However, the root-knot nematode, which lives in hotter climates such as in the Central Valley, can inflict havoc on crops, especially vegetables.
J. Ole Becker, Extension Specialist of Nematology at UC Riverside, described the big problems these tiny organisms create for growers, “Nematodes are an underestimated disease problem. They are probably costing California agriculture at least $1.5 billion each year in lost production. Our major problem is root-knot nematodes; we have four or five species causing problems throughout the state.”
Root-knot nematodes were named due to the way they entwine themselves around the root of the plant, which can dramatically decrease the plant’s yield. Becker explained that tools and strategies available to growers minimally affect crops and the environment, “We now have second and third generation products entering the market that are as effective, but much less toxic, then what was available twenty years ago. They also have shorter entry time.”
According to the UC Riverside Department of Nematology website, millions of species of nematodes cover all seven continents, but only a small fraction affect our food supply.