Cover Crops Recommended for Managing Nematodes

Web AdminBest Management Practices, Pest Management

By Clint Thompson

A multi-pronged approach to nematode management remains the best approach for Florida specialty crop producers.

Cover Crops

Johan Desaeger, assistant professor of entomology and nematology at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, discussed nematode management during the recent Citrus and Specialty Crop Expo in Tampa, Florida.

“It just means that you try to use as many different strategies as you can. I know it’s not always easy when you’re a grower that has a lot of land and you can rotate your land; that’s ideal. Smaller growers do not have that luxury,” Desaeger said. “In that case, try to incorporate some cover crops. You’re never going to grow crop after crop so make sure you have something in between where you can grow a cover crop.

“Even if it’s only two months, you can grow a cover crop for two months. If it’s a poor of host of nematodes that’s causing you problems, that’s going to help in the long run.”

Desaeger remains passionate about the idea of cover cropping and not just for control of nematodes. Cover crops have various benefits that growers should take advantage of.

“Here in Florida, with our climate, it’s so easy to grow a cover crop. Yes, you have to buy the seed and there’s some expense, but I think in the end, it’s going to pay out dividends,” Desaeger said. “It’s not just going to help manage nematodes. It’s going to increase your organic matter. It’s going to increase soil biology and may increase some of those nematode parasites and antagonists that you want.”

Nematodes have a wide host range and are most prevalent in Florida’s sandy soils. Root-knot nematodes enter the roots of plants, move through its cells until they reach sites where they grow, produce additional eggs and cause the roots to swell. This reduces the plant’s growth and any potential yield.

Sunn hemp remains a viable cover crop that will help reduce nematodes in the soil.