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Nematode Control in the Home Garden

Publication Number: P0483
Updated: April 5, 2017
View as PDF: P0483.pdf

Nematodes are slender, wormlike animals too small to be seen with an unaided eye. They live in soil, water, and plant tissues and can be spread from one area to another in infested soil clinging to cultivation equipment, in water, and on roots of transplants.

Although nematodes are hidden in the soil, they may cause much damage to plants. Typical aboveground symptoms are a general stunting, yellowing, loss of vigor, and general decline.

One nematode that is especially damaging in home gardens is the root-knot nematode, which attacks many common vegetables. This nematode enters the root tissue and feeds, stimulating the development of swellings, or galls.

The ability of the plant to take up water and nutrients from the soil is reduced by this nematode. Nematodes also damage plants by allowing other harmful organisms in the soil to enter the roots.

The best time to determine if you have a nematode problem is in the summer and fall, when nematodes are most numerous. Roots may be dug from the soil and examined for the presence of root-knot nematode galls.

The kinds and number of nematodes in the soil may be determined by sending soil samples to the Extension Plant Pathology Laboratory, 190 Bost North, Rm. 9, Mississippi State, MS 39762-9612. Nematode testing costs $11 per sample.

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