Some nematodes can be plant pathogens on our crops while others can be used as biological control agents against insect pests. The nematode research within CBC focuses on both naturally occurring nematode enemies and fungi that can be inoculated to control the plant damaging nematodes. In addition, we investigate how entomopathogenic nematodes can be used in a good way.
Effects of growing practices on nematodes and their natural enemies
Nematodes are millimeter-long roundworms that live in the water film that surrounds soil particles. Some nematodes feed on the roots of the growing crop by means of a stylet that is used to pierce and feed on the root cells. In the end, this leads to a deformed root system which affects the plant’s uptake of water and nutrients, and the result is poor growth and reduced yield.
In soil, there is a range of other soil animals that can affect and even feed on nematodes. In one project, we are studying how reduced tillage affects nematodes and their natural enemies, especially earthworms. The more direct effects of earthworms on nematodes are also investigated in a greenhouse experiment, where we also test if arbuscular mycorrhiza (AMF), symbiotic fungi that help plants acquire nutrients, can lessen the effect of the plant damaging nematodes.
In another project, we are studying how different types of flower trips affect the amount of plant damaging nematodes. In particular, we are investigating if the flower strips increase the reproduction of the nematodes and if they can spread out in the adjacent crop.
Control by fungi
Different fungi have been shown to effectively control plant diseases. One example is Clonostachys, which has been shown to negatively affect both other fungi and nematodes. Within CBC, we study how Clonostachys harm plant damaging nematodes and its potential for practical use. Our studies so far show that Clonostachys has an antagonistic effect on plant damaging nematodes, which results in better growth of both wheat and carrot.
Entomopathogenic nematodes can be used to control a range of insect pests. Some of these nematodes are approved for use as biological control agents in Sweden, and at CBC we investigate their natural occurrence and if they affect other organisms than their intended targets.
- Managing soil ecosystem services and earthworm-nematode-mycorrhizal fungal interactions in farming systems
- The effect of flower strips on beneficial and pest soil fauna
- Biological control of plant-parasitic nematodes