North America, Pests and Diseases, Research

Leading the battle against nematodes

New weapons in the battle against the pale cyst nematode — a major potato pest that has cost US farmers millions of dollars since it was found in southeast Idaho in 2006 — include an effective bio-fumigant and a surprisingly efficient “trap crop.” Brad Carlson reports for Capital Press.

Researchers are also making progress in developing PCN-resistant potato varieties. “Understanding the biology allows us to target the weak point in the life cycle,” said University of Idaho Associate Professor Louise-Marie Dandurand, project director of the Globodera Alliance.

The alliance is a five-year, $3.2 million project funded by USDA to assess the risk of and work to eradicate potato cyst nematodes. The 16 alliance members include researchers and educators from the Northwest, New York, Canada, Scotland and France. An advisory board includes industry representatives and federal and state regulators. The project, in its final year, is seeking funding to continue its work.

The group also studies the golden nematode — found in New York, where resistant potato varieties are available — and the related Globodera ellingtonae, which as yet lacks a common name.

Pale cyst nematode (PCN) is of particular concern because it can reduce yields substantially, and resistant potato varieties are not yet available for Idaho, where PCN for years has been the target of government-ordered eradication.

“These encysted eggs can survive in soil anywhere from 20 to 30 years,” Dandurand said. Some pathogens can be controlled by rotating with a non-host crop, but this doesn’t work for PCN, she said. “If a grower just plants wheat, PCN just lies dormant for many years.”

Researchers have found that Litchi tomato is a “trap crop” that causes the nematode to hatch, just like potato.

Read the full report in Capital Press here.
Photo: Professor Louise-Marie Dandurant in the University of Idaho pale cyst nematode Laboratory | Univ of Idaho

Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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