Chemical trickery explored to help contain potato pest

March 18, 2013

If left unchecked, the pale cyst nematode burrows into potato roots to feed, obstructing nutrients and causing stunted growth, wilted leaves and other symptoms that can eventually kill the plant. Now USDA and cooperating scientists are evaluating new ways to control the pest using naturally occurring chemicals called egg-hatching factors.

The pale cyst , Globodera pallida, is one bad roundworm.

Unchecked, the pest burrows into potato roots to feed, obstructing nutrients and causing stunted growth, wilted leaves and other symptoms that can eventually kill the plant. Severe infestations can cause tuber yield losses of up to 80 percent.

Now, however, U.S. (USDA) and cooperating scientists are evaluating new ways to control G. pallida using naturally occurring chemicals called egg-hatching factors.

According to lead scientist Roy Navarre, with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the egg-hatching factors are actually chemicals exuded from the roots of potato and certain other solanaceous plants into surrounding soil. There, the chemicals stimulate G. pallida eggs to hatch.

Normally, this helps ensure the survival of emerging juvenile nematodes. But Navarre's approach calls for using the chemicals to "trick" the eggs into hatching when no are present, leaving juveniles without food or a host on which to reproduce.

His investigations are part a broader, multi-pronged control effort involving researchers from state universities, other ARS labs, and other federal and state agriculture departments.

G. pallida, a non- from Europe, was first detected in eastern Idaho in April 2006. To date, it's been found in and confined to 17 infested fields representing 1,916 total acres in Idaho's Bingham and Bonneville counties. Despite G. pallida's limited , its presence in U.S. soils has had far-reaching impact: closed or limited export markets, devalued farmland, regulatory restrictions and other economic hardships.

Fumigation is a key defense. However, the eggs are encased in cysts that can resist fumigation, according to Navarre, who works at the ARS Vegetable and Forage Crops Research Laboratory in Prosser, Wash.

He is exploring two approaches to force the eggs to hatch in the absence of a host: amending the soil with purified forms of egg-hatching factors, and planting sticky nightshade as a "trap crop" whose roots exude the chemicals, but don't support the nematode's reproduction.

Explore further: New research to decode the genetic secrets of prolific potato pest

More information: Read more about this research in the March 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine: www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/mar13/nematodes0313.htm

Related Stories

Citrus root signals produce better biocontrol

January 21, 2011

Substances released into the soil by citrus tree roots when chewed on by insect pests could lead to new ways of improving the effectiveness of roundworm "first responders."

A better test for a potato pest

August 23, 2011

A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist has created a new weapon in the war being waged against the potato cyst nematode-a diagnostic test that identifies the type of nematode infesting a grower's field.

Using less water to grow more potatoes

September 1, 2011

Research conducted in part at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has confirmed that in some production systems, planting potatoes in flat beds can increase irrigation water use efficiency.

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

4 million years at Africa's salad bar

August 3, 2015

As grasses grew more common in Africa, most major mammal groups tried grazing on them at times during the past 4 million years, but some of the animals went extinct or switched back to browsing on trees and shrubs, according ...

A look at living cells down to individual molecules

August 3, 2015

EPFL scientists have been able to produce footage of the evolution of living cells at a nanoscale resolution by combining atomic force microscopy and an a super resolution optical imaging system that follows molecules that ...

New lizard named after Sir David Attenborough

August 3, 2015

A research team led by Dr Martin Whiting from the Department of Biological Sciences recently discovered a beautifully coloured new species of flat lizard, which they have named Platysaurus attenboroughi, after Sir David Attenborough.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.