AFBI find an emerging pest threat to cereal and grass crops in Northern Ireland

Date published: 10 June 2019

Area of Expertise:

The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute plays a key role in protecting plant health in Northern Ireland.

Recently, following reports of unexplained poor growth in some cereal and grass crops AFBI scientists have identified high levels of the root knot nematode, Meloidogyne naasi which is causing severe root damage in several parts of Northern Ireland. This pest is related to the potato cyst nematode and is more commonly known as ‘potato root eelworm’ but attacks a much wider range crops including barley, wheat, oats and ryegrass.

After hatching from eggs in the soil in early spring, the root knot nematode enters the plant roots and begins to feed, quickly producing characteristic root galling and root stunting. This root damage reduces the ability of the plant to take up nutrients and water and affected crops are especially prone to drought stress during periods of dry weather. Crops affected by the root knot nematode usually exhibit discrete patches of stunted yellowing plants, however this year larger areas within fields of cereals have been affected. It is likely that the damaging levels of root knot nematode this spring resulted from high populations developing during the hot weather experienced during 2018.

AFBI’s advice to cereal and grass producers is to check their crops for areas showing unexplained stunted growth and poor response to nutrient application.

If you suspect that nematodes may be causing a problem, contact AFBI Crop Pathologist, Dr Thomas Fleming (Tel: 028 9025 5240/ email: Thomas Fleming who can arrange testing and provide advice in managing this serious plant parasite.

Notes to editors: 

AFBI carries out high quality technology research and development, statutory, analytical, and diagnostic testing functions for DAERA and other Government departments, public bodies and commercial companies.

AFBI's Vision  is “Advancing the Local and Global Agri-Food Sectors Through Scientific Excellence”.

AFBI's core areas:
- Leading improvements in the agri food industry;
- Protecting animal, plant and human health;
- Enhancing the natural and marine environment.

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