Department of Horticulture
Telephone: (517) 355-4487
East Lansing, MI 48824
Area of Expertise:
Integrated and sustainable nematode, nutrient cycling, and soil health management in cropping systems.
February 15, 2010
- 85% Research
- 15% Extension
- Diploma, Agriculture, Ambo Institute of Agriculture, Ethiopia 1974
- Diploma, Crop Protection, Harper Adams College, England 1978
- M.Sc., Nematology, Imperial College, University of London, England 1980
- Ph.D., Nematology/Biology, Simon Fraser University, Canada 1986
Research Program Overview
My research focus has been on understanding plant-nematode-soil-nutrient interactions at the organism and ecosystem levels with a strategic vision of developing integrated and sustainable nematode, nutrient cycling, and soil health management in cropping systems. Nematodes, the most abundant metazoan on the planet, include bacteriovores, fungivores, herbivores, carnivores, omnivores, and predator trophic groups. Herbivores impact the food chain; whereas, all nematodes are critical part of the soil food web and nutrient cycling processes. Soil-inhabiting herbivore nematodes cause crop quality and yield loss by sucking host cell contents root destruction and disrupting water and nutrient uptake and the photosynthesis process in one of three ways: destructive (host cells killed, e.g. root-lesion, Pratylenchus), adaptive (cells modified e.g. cyst, Heterodera) and neoplastic (cells modified and undergo new growth, e.g. root-knot, Meloidogyne) feeding behaviors. We have used the three feeding behaviors as models to study plant-nematode-soil-nutrient interactions and developed a fertilizer use efficiency (FUE) model that separates nutrient deficiency and toxicity from nematode parasitism as well as suitability of treatments designed to achieve desired economic, agro-ecological, biological and physiochemical soil health conditions. This has allowed us to move from managing herbivore nematodes only to managing all nematode trophic groups as part of a soil ecosystem, leading towards developing integrated knowledge for improved food security and ecosystem health management. The strategic vision is being pursued along four major themes: i) Understanding the impact of tillage and cropping systems on nematode adaptation; ii) Understanding nematode parasitic variability in cropping systems; iii) Assessing integrated efficiency of cultural practice and soil nutrient amendment strategies; and iv) Developing a soil group or order (the plates up on which different cultures and land use practices stump their ecosystem change footprints) based scalable soil health management strategies.
Working with MSU Extension Educators, my goal is to use a combination of the Ferris et al (2001) soil food web (SFW) and FUE models to increase awareness towards achieving sustainable soil health management strategies in cropping systems. There is a substantial body of knowledge on the influence of land use and production practices on the biological, physiochemical, nutrient cycling and water holding components of soil health. Getting to sustainable soil health conditions however is difficult without simultaneous generation of three sets of ecosystem services: i) improve soil structure, physiochemistry, nutrient cycling and water holding capacity; ii) suppress pests and diseases while increasing beneficial organisms; and iii) improve biological functioning leading to a steady state of soil health and improved crop yield. It is well established that a functioning SFW is central to generating the three sets of ecosystem services, these ecosystem services do not always align, and translating the complex biophysiochemical information into practical application is a challenge. The nematode community analysis-based SFW and FUE models apply innovative concepts that simplify complex information otherwise difficult to relate to production and in ways that growers can understand and adopt.
Program Interactions with Regional/National Nematology Projects:
- http://nimss.umd.edu/homepages/home.cfm?trackID=10536 (W-2186)
- http://nimss.umd.edu/homepages/home.cfm?trackID=8216 (NC-1197)
- http://nimss.umd.edu/homepages/home.cfm?trackID=9937 (NE-1040)
Understanding soil nutrient cycling and management at regional and continental scales:
We are basing our studies on soil groups or orders, the plates up on which different cultures and land use practices stump their ecosystem change footprints, to develop an understanding of nutrient cycling management across climatic and socio-cultural zones. We have two new and two completed projects:
Integrated and scalable nematode-soil health management for smallholder potato farming systems (2017-2019). This USAID-Horticultural Innovations Laboratory funded project is a collaborative effort among the University of Hawaii (lead), Michigan State University, and Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala. Plant-parasitic nematodes and soil degradation on smallholder farms reduce crop yields and limit smallholder food and nutritional security. Current smallholder agricultural practices exacerbate soil degradation and losses to plant-parasitic nematodes. The project goal is to assist smallholder farmers in the Guatemalan Highlands in adopting scalable, integrated nematode-soil health management technologies to achieve sustainable crop yield that provide income, food and nutritional security. Replicated research experiments, designed with engagement of smallholder farmers, have been initiated to demonstrate effectiveness of soil amendments and biopesticides on-farms on Andisole and Mollisole soil groups (orders). These trials encompass different socio-cultures. Our transdisciplinary research team is monitoring and collecting data from the research experiments focusing on nematode control, economics, and soil health. A unique aspect of this project is mental modeling (social science approach to gauging how people think) of smallholder farmers to identify integrated nematode-soil health management options most likely to be adopted and scaled up across ecozones and cultures.
Improving soil health and fertilizer use efficiency in subsistence fruit and vegetable agriculture in Malawi (2017-2019). Poor soil fertility driven by intensive cultivation, insufficient fertilizer application, the lack of composting and climate-smart soil fertility management practices, the lack of affordable soil testing services, insufficient fertilizer formulation for different soil nutrient types, and insufficient working capital for farmers to procure adequate fertilizer amounts are among the overarching challenges in Malawi’s horticultural sector. The soil health component is a small portion of a much bigger project is recommended for funding by USDA Food for Progress. The overall project is designed to address many intertwined agricultural, societal, and economic challenges. The project is anticipated to start around August, 2017 soon to be followed by ground-turthing to identify crop- and region-specific problems, and potential solutions in selected vegetable and fruit crops. Our goal is to demonstrate how grower-selected, climate-smart soil amendments affect soil health and educate growers on how they can adopt the outcomes.
Effects of tillage and cropping systems on nematode adaptation (on-going since 2003):
The soybean cyst nematode (SCN) is the single most important and chronic pest of soybeans in the USA and continues to spread across the soybean production landscape. Despite a substantial body of knowledge on the biology of SCN and its management using resistant cultivars, rotations and potential biocontrol agents, the effect of no-till system has been inconclusive and most of the research is based after it has been detected. On-going is a study initiated in 2003 where SCN was introduced into an SCN virgin Sisson sandy loam (Fine, loamy, mixed, semiactive, mesic Type, Hapludalfs) soil under till and no-till, and either corn (C), SCN- resistant soybean (R), or SCN-susceptible soybean (S) monocrop, or RCRC and SCSC rotation cycles. The objectives are to determine: 1) the time it takes for SCN to reach damaging threshold levels; 2) its reproduction relative to nematode community structure; and 3) how non-target biological and soil physiochemical changes relate to SCN population dynamics. Collaborators: A. Kravchenko and K. Thelen (Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences), P.S. Grewal (The Ohio State University), and S. Mennan (Ondokuz Mayis University, Turkey).
Melakeberhan, H., Maung, Z.T.Z., Lee, C-L., Poindexter, S. and Stewart, J. (2018). Soil type-driven variable effects on cover- and rotation-crops, nematodes and soil food web in sugar beet fields reveal a roadmap for developing healthy soils. European Journal of Soil Biology 85, 53-63.
Habteweld, A. W., Brainard, D. C., Kravchenko, A. N., Grewal, P. S. and Melakeberhan, H. (2018). Effects of plant and animal waste-based compost amendments on soil food web, soil properties, and yield and quality of fresh market and processing carrot cultivars. Nematology 20, 147-168. DOI: 10.1163/15685411-00003130
Cheng, Z., H. Melakeberhan, S. Mennan, and P.S. Grewal (2018). Relationship between soybean cyst nematode Heterodera glycines and soil nematode community under long-term tillage and crop rotation. Nematropica 48, 101-115.
Asiedu, O., C. K. Kwoseh, H. Melakeberhan, and T. Adjeigyapong (2017). Nematode distribution in cultivated and undisturbed soils of Guinea Savannah and Semi-deciduous Forest zones of Ghana. Geoscience Frontiers. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gsf.2017.07.010.
Grabau, Z.J., Z.T.Z. Maung, C. Noyes, D. Baas, B.P. Werling, D.C. Brainard, and H. Melakeberhan (2017). Effects of cover crops on Pratylenchus penetrans and the nematode community in carrot production. Journal of Nematology. Journal of Nematology 49, 114-123.
Nair, M.G., Seenivasan, N., Liu, Y., Feick, R.M., Maung, Z.T.A. and Melakeberhan, H. (2015). Leaf constituents of Curcuma spp. suppress Meloidogyne hapla and increase bacterial-feeding nematodes. Nematology, 17:353–361.
Melakeberhan H, W. Wang, A. Kravchenko, and K. Thelen (2015). Effects of agronomic practices on the timeline of Heterodera glycines establishment in a new location. Nematology, 17:705-713.
Melakebehan, H., Z.T.Z, Maung, S. Yildiz, T. Schmidt, T. Teal, J. Qi, J. Gronseth, C. Kwoseh, T. Adjei-Gyapong, V. Saka, M. Lowole, J.W. Kimenju, G.N. Karuku, P.M. Wachira, G. Kariuki, and V.N. Gathaara (2013). Hidden biological secrets that could revolutionize ecosystem based food security and adaptation to climate change in degraded sub-Saharan Africa soils. UNEP Conference on Harnessing Ecosystem Services, Nairobi, Kenya, August 20-21, 2013. http://www.foodsec.aaknet.org/index.php/widgetkit/capacity-building
Melakeberhan, H., and W. Wang (2013). Proof-of-concept for managing Meloidogyne hapla parasitic variability in carrot production soils. Nematology, 14:339-346.
Melakeberhan, H., and W. Wang (2012). Suitability of celery cultivars to populations of Meloidogyne hapla. Nematology, 14:623-629.
Melakeberhan, H., D. Douches, and W. Wang (2012). Interactions of selected potato cultivars and populations of Meloidogyne hapla adapted to the US Midwest soils. Crop Science, 52:1-6.
Mennan, S. and H. Melakeberhan (2010). Effects of biosolid amendment on populations of Meloidogyne hapla in soil with different textures and pHs. Bioresource Technology, 101: 7169-7175.
Melakeberhan, H. (2010). Cross-disciplinary efficiency assessment of agronomic and soil amendment practices designed to suppress biotic yield-limiting factors. Journal of Nematology, 42: 73-77.
Zasada, I., M.F. Avendano, Y.C., Li, T. Logan, H. Melakeberhan., S.R. Koenning, and G.L. Tylka (2008). Potential of alkaline-stabilized biosolid to manage nematodes: Case studies on soybean cyst and root-knot nematodes. Plant Disease 92:4-13.
Melakeberhan, H., and M.F. Avendano (2008). Spatio-temporal consideration of soil conditions and site-specific management of nematodes. Precision Agriculture 9: 341-354.
Melakeberhan. H., S. Mennan, M. Ngouajio, and T. Dudek (2008). Effect of Meloidogyne hapla on multi-purpose use of oilseed radish (Raphanus sativus). Nematology 10: 375-379.
Melakeberhan, H. (2007). Effect of starter nitrogen on soybeans under Heterodera glycines infestation. Plant and Soil 301: 111-121.
Melakeberhan, H., S. Mennan, S. Chen, B. Darby, and T. Dudek (2007). Integrated approaches to understanding and managing Meloidogyne hapla populations’ parasitic variability. Crop Protection 26:894-902.
Donald, P. A., P.E. Pierson, S.K. St. Martin, P.R. Sellers, G.R. Noel, A.E. MacGuidwin, J. Faghihi, V.R. Ferris, C.R. Grau, D.J. Jardine, H. Melakeberhan, T.L. Niblack, W.C. Stienstra, G.L. Tylka, T. A. Wheeler, and D.S. Wysong (2006). Assessing Heterodera glycines-resistant and susceptible cultivar yield response. Journal of Nematology, 38: 76-82.
Melakeberhan, H. (2006). Fertiliser use efficiency of soybean cultivars infected with Meloidogyne incognita and Pratylenchus penetrans. Nematology, 8: 129-137.
Click here for an extended list of publications
Current and Recent Funding Sources
- Horticulture Innovations Laboratory (USAID)
- Howard G. Buffett Foundation
- MSU AgBioResearch
- Michigan Carrot Commission
- Michigan Celery Research Inc.
- Michigan Sugar Beet Industry
- Michigan Vegetable Council
- Project GREEEN (State Initiative)
- United States Department of Agriculture, Feed the Future Initiative
See Abbreviated CV for a full list