Science Into Practice - Nematode management

Free-living nematodes (FLN) can cause serious damage to carrot and parsnip roots, despite not living inside a host plant, by feeding directly on the roots and root hairs.

Yields are reduced because affected roots are less efficient at taking up water and nutrients, so tap roots can become malformed.

A recent supply problem 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.

There is a lack of proven alternative crop-protection products but other strategies, such as longer rotations, are hampered by a shortage of suitable land and the industry's reliance on rented sites.

A review Dr Roy Neilson, a nematologist at the James Hutton Institute, has highlighted action that agronomists and growers can take in the short-to-medium term, such as cultivation, rotation and monitoring, to help improve management of FLNs.

The review recommends that further research now needs to be done to develop longer-term management strategies, including, resistance breeding, biological control, cover crops and biofumigation.

Recommendations

- Increase length of rotation between carrot and parsnip crops - ideally around seven years.

- Exclude from rotation crops that can maintain or increase FLNs, including sugar beet, potato, peas and beans.

- Monitor FLNs with best-practice soil testing.

- Consider cover crops within standard rotations.

A new fact sheet is available to help growers manage FLNs associated with carrots and parsnips.

See horticulture.ahdb.org.uk.


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