Today’s Topic: Emerging root-knot nematode threatens sweet potatoes

By on May 23, 2017

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.”

Sweet potato growers should be aware of an emerging root-knot nematode that has been identified in fields in Eastern North Carolina. The nematode’s Latin name is Meloidogyne enterolobii, but it’s also known as the pacara earpod. It has been identified in Columbus, Johnston, Wayne and Wilson counties.

Finding it in our sweet potato growing belt is troubling, because it has the potential to cause significant damage to the crop if it becomes more established.

North Carolina is the leading producer of sweet potatoes in the country, growing more than half of the total U.S. crop. Sweet potatoes generated more than $331 million in cash receipts for N.C. farmers in 2015, according to USDA statistics.

Because there are currently no varieties of sweet potatoes available that are resistant to this root-knot nematode, NCDA&CS agronomists recommend using a soil fumigant before planting.

This nematode was first reported in the U.S. in Florida in 2004. It was first identified in North Carolina in 2013. Commissioner Troxler says it is a big concern because of its ability to develop on many economically important crops, such as tobacco, tomatoes, soybeans, potatoes, cowpeas, sweet potatoes and cotton. The nematode can have a major impact on sweet potato quality, and it often causes a total loss of the crop.

Growers with concerns about nematodes can contact the Nematode Assay Section in the NCDA&CS Agronomic Services Division at 919-733-2655.

Click on the link below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the pacara earpod nematode.

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