USDA Forest Service plant pathologists have discovered a new cause of damage to loblolly pine seedlings grown in the South - needle nematodes. In the July 2002 issue of Plant Disease, pathologists Stephen Fraedrich (SRS Insects and Diseases of Southern Forests unit in Athens, GA) and Michelle Cram (Forest Health Protection Program, Region 8) report on finding a previously undescribed species of nematode stunting the growth of pine seedlings in a Georgia nursery.
In 1998, a three-year study was initiated in a southern Georgia nursery to evaluate treatments to replace methyl bromide (MC33), an ozone-depleting soil fumigant scheduled for phase-out by 2005. During the third year of the study, patches of stunted seedlings began to appear in different sections of the nursery fields. The needles of the stunted seedlings were yellowed, and the root systems were much smaller than normal, with few lateral or fine roots.
Soil samples from the affected areas were sent to a nematode laboratory, and soil and roots were also examined for fungus pathogens, but the cause of the stunting could not be determined. When they examined unwashed pine seedling roots under a dissecting microscope, Fraedrich and Cram found large needle nematodes of the Longidorus genus that had escaped the notice of the nematode laboratory. Growth chamber experiments on container seedlings inoculated with Longidorus resulted in root damage similar to that in the stunted field seedlings.
Stephen Fraedrich | EurekAlert!
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