Researchers at the University of Florida’s Gulf Coast Research and Education Center (GCREC) in Wimauma are testing new ways of managing nematode pests as they continue affecting strawberry crops across the state.
Johan Desaeger, a nematologist at GCREC, said strawberry growers have faced issues within the last year with species of nematodes that are lesser known in the crop, which has made them more of a challenge.
Researchers have been looking at foliar nematodes, which attack above-ground crops, and have caused issues for strawberry growers in recent years by harming the leaves and buds of plants. Nematodes in the soil are also an issue for strawberry growers. Desaeger said not only sting nematodes, common in Florida strawberries, but also root-knot and root-lesion nematodes, affect the crops through the soil. “We’re trying to study the distribution and the importance of all these nematodes,” he said.
One main project for managing the nematodes in strawberries is testing fumigants and nematicides. Desaeger said researchers are testing new chemical and biological nematicides to see if they can manage nematodes without using fumigants. However, they are continuing to test fumigants to improve efficiency of nematode management.
Cultural controls are also being studied for strawberry crops. Desaeger said that cover crops are typically planted as a tool for soil conservation and soil improvement, but can also have an effect on nematodes. Cover crops can increase or decrease the amount of nematodes found in a field, which is why researchers such as Desaeger are continuing to study them.
This research will help growers plant cover crops that will be beneficial to the soil while keeping the number of nematodes under control as well.
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