U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Research Plant Pathologist-Nematologist William Rutter, Ph.D., checks on sprouting plants that will be used in his work to develop tools to manage and mitigate the damage caused by the Meloidogyne enterolobii (the guava root-knot nematode), and other root-knot nematode species, he works at the U.S. Vegetable Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina, on January 28, 2021.
The specialized LED lights above emit a purple glow in the sealable room. Nematodes are small microscopic roundworms in the soil. Meloidogyne enterolobii (the guava root-knot nematode) is an invasive species in the United States southeastern region and causes significant damage to a wide variety of crops worldwide. These specific nematodes only appeared in the United States within the last 20 years and they've slowly been spreading across the southeastern states causing damage in sweet potato as well as several other crops. This research will provide resources to develop germplasm that will help breeders develop new crop varieties that are resistant to the nematode as well as management practices that will help farmers directly manage the nematode and stop its spread in the field. Root-knot nematodes in general and particularly Meloidogyne enterolobii can infect the majority of cultivated plants in the U.S. They're currently causing a lot of damage in sweet potato in the Carolinas, but they also infect other vegetable crops such as pepper, cucumber, watermelon, as well as soybean and cotton. Root-knot nematodes cause billions of dollars of damage each year for the U.S. and farmers globally.USDA Photo by Lance Cheung. Original public domain image from Flickr