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Options for free-living nematode control in horticulture

A review into both UK and overseas research suggests alternative ways to control free living nematodes for carrots and parsnips and has recommended areas to focus on for future R&D.


Abby   Kellett

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Abby   Kellett
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Options for free-living nematode control in horticulture #pestcontrol

Dr Roy Neilson, a nematologist at the James Hutton Institute has led a review into the management of free-living nematodes after calls from growers for AHDB Horticulture to horizon scan the research.


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The review highlights action agronomists and growers could consider in the short and medium term, such as tillage, rotations and monitoring, to help improve management of free-living nematodes and made additional recommendations for longer-term research funding in areas such as biofumigation, biological control and resistance breeding.

 

He found evidence that the introduction of set-aside in the 1990s may have helped nematode species to increase by providing a stable environment combined with a diverse host range.

 

Once land in set-aside was returned to production, shorter and often inappropriate rotations boosted their numbers further. If they have gone unnoticed until recently it’s because treatments aimed at other pests, notably potato cyst nematode, kept them under control, according to Dr Neilson.

 

He said the recent supply problems with one of the industry’s widely used nematicides is a timely reminder of just how vulnerable carrot and parsnip growers are when it comes to controlling nematodes.

Options for Control

  • Extend the break between each carrot and parsnip crop, while excluding from the rotation other crops that are also vulnerable to free-living nematodes.
  • Monitor for the presence of free-living nematodes to aid decisions about which fields to drill.
  • Organic soil amendments have a potential role in nematode management but the effects are inconsistent.
  • Mustard-based biofumigants have been shown to suppress free-living nematodes but UK trial results are inconsistent.
  • Resistance breeding, even with the assistance of modern genetic mapping techniques, requires significant economic investment, with any benefits for growers long term.

“The limited research in the UK has been focused on the potential that field-grown mustards offer, but any single solution replicates the current situation of reliance on synthetic chemicals and is unsustainable in the long term,” said Dr Neilson.

 

See also: Top tips for getting the most from biofumigants

 

Advice for growers

  • Where possible, increase the length of rotation – even one year may be beneficial
  • Ensure the rotation includes crops that are poor of free-living nematodes hosts
  • Monitor by soil testing
  • Consider including a cover crop in standard rotation.
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