The Nematodes – You Need to Strike Back!

Nematodes – they sound like some kind of creature out of Star Wars! Plant-parasitic nematodes are definitely the bad guys and you will need more than a light sabre to combat them!
Living in the darkness of the soil, they create havoc on the roots of plant life. Nematodes are tiny, microscopic roundworms that inhabit soil, water, and various other environments. They are not all bad guys though- there are both beneficial and harmful nematodes. While some nematodes play a crucial role in nutrient cycling and pest control, others can cause damage to plants by feeding on their roots. The harmful nematodes are often referred to as plant-parasitic nematodes.
What they do: Plant-parasitic nematodes feed on plant roots, causing damage that can lead to reduced plant growth, stunted development, wilting, and an overall decline in plant health. They penetrate the root tissue, extracting nutrients and causing mechanical damage. Additionally, their feeding activities can create entry points for secondary infections by bacteria, fungi, or other pathogens.
How do you recognise the Nematode attack? Digging up your plants at the end of their productive cycle is often the best way to tell if you have them active in your soil, but if your plants look weak, are yellowing or failing to thrive, then you just might need to get out the big guns!
Here is what you might notice:
  1. Root Lesions: Nematodes create lesions or wounds on plant roots, affecting the plant’s ability to absorb water and nutrients.
  2. Galls or Knots: Some nematode species induce the formation of galls or knots on roots, hindering normal root function.
  3. Stunting and Yellowing: Infected plants may exhibit stunted growth, yellowing of leaves (chlorosis), and an overall weakened appearance.
Knowing your enemy is said to be half the battle!
Common Garden Nematodes:
  1. Root-knot nematodes (Meloidogyne spp.): Cause the formation of knots or galls on roots.
  2. Cyst nematodes (Heterodera spp.): Form cysts on roots, restricting nutrient uptake.
  3. Lesion nematodes (Pratylenchus spp.): Feed on root tissues, creating lesions and affecting water and nutrient absorption.
There are a number of easy ways to strike back at these pests!
  1. Soil Solarization: This involves covering the soil with transparent plastic to trap heat from the sun, raising soil temperatures and killing nematodes. This is typically done during hot summer months.
  2. Crop Rotation: Rotate crops regularly to disrupt the nematode life cycle. Some crops are more susceptible to nematodes, so planting resistant varieties or rotating with non-host crops can help.
  3. Nematode-resistant Plants: Choose nematode-resistant plant varieties for your garden. Some plants have natural resistance to specific nematode species.
  4. Organic Amendments: Incorporating organic matter into the soil can improve soil structure and promote the growth of beneficial microorganisms that may help suppress nematode populations.
  5. Biocontrol: Introduce beneficial nematodes or other organisms that prey on nematodes. Certain fungi and bacteria can also act as natural enemies to nematodes.
  6. Nematicides: In severe cases, chemical nematicides may be used. However, these should be used cautiously, as they can have negative impacts on non-target organisms and the environment.
It’s important to note that a combination of these strategies is often the most effective approach to manage nematode populations in the garden.
Some veggies have the ability to resist nematodes – if you are under attack – consider planting these until your nematodes are under control!
  1. Capsicum: ‘California Wonder’
  2. Eggplant: ‘Black Beauty’
  3. Okra: ‘Clemsons Spineless’
  4. Cucumbers: ‘Poinsett’
  5. Watermelon:‘Crimson Sweet’
    ‘Charleston Gray’
  6. Collard Greens:‘Georgia Southern’
We have most of these in stock now at www.wendysgarden.com.au – for more interesting articles keep your eyes on this Facebook page!
Cheers, Wendy XXX