Detect and avoid nematode problems in your fruit planting

Fall is the time to take soil samples for nematode testing.

Stunted grapevine
Stunted grapevine (cv. Vignoles) infected with Tomato Ringspot Virus (ToRSV). When dagger nematodes are present in the soil, there is a high risk of virus spread in the planting. Photo by Timothy Miles, MSU.

Plant-parasitic nematodes are microscopic round worms that live in the soil and feed on plant roots or foliage. Nematode feeding can cause a reduction in root volume and mass but above-ground symptoms such as stunting, yellowing and wilting are often misdiagnosed as nutrient deficiencies. Plant-parasitic nematodes that are detected in orchards and small fruit fields also can transmit viruses. Damage from plant parasitic nematodes costs Michigan growers millions of dollars annually.

Prior to establishing a new planting, it is highly recommended to sample soil for detecting and avoiding nematode problems. Monitoring nematode populations should continue soon after establishment or one to two years after transplanting and then every three to five years. Post-plant control options for nematodes are limited, so it is best to manage nematodes before bushes, canes, transplants, trees or vines are planted.

There are specific procedures to follow for taking a representative soil sample and confidently assess the status of a field or planting. Michigan State University Plant & Pest Diagnostics offers a complete nematode service that provides the necessary information for decision making. To know more about nematode sampling procedures, sample shipping, testing fees and other general nematode analysis information, please visit our page on Detecting and Avoiding Nematode Problems. To resolve your questions, contact us.

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