University of Florida scientist studies cost-effective methods to control nematodes

Golf courses, lawns, playgrounds, parks and many other outdoor spaces are part of an industry valued at $14.3 billion and consuming 3.9 million acres in Florida. Parasitic nematodes and fungal diseases are among the costliest challenges facing the turf industry in the Sunshine State.

“Prick and root-knot nematodes are the major turf pests in the southern United States,” said Abolfazl Hajihassani, a University of Florida scientist at the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). “The problem is that the combination of pests and diseases affects turf growth and quality. Management tools rely primarily on a limited number of expensive chemical fumigants and nematicides.

Hajihassani, an assistant professor at the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Center for Research and Education (UF/IFAS FLREC), is the principal investigator of a $471,201 grant from the National Institute of Food and Health. agriculture from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Over the next three years, he will lead a team of UF/IFAS and USDA scientists who will develop cost-effective methods to manage these pests and diseases. They believe the research will benefit the turf industry in Florida, Georgia and other parts of the southern United States.

“Our goal is to provide economic relief to growers, homeowners, parks and recreation managers, golf course superintendents, commercial industries and to promote economic and environmental sustainability in the turf industry,” said he declared.

Healthy turf reduces soil erosion, filters runoff, cools the air, and reduces glare and noise. In addition, it effectively filters and traps sediments and pollutants that can contaminate surface water and groundwater.

Nematodes are microscopic roundworms that live in the soil. While most soil nematodes are beneficial because they feed on bacteria, fungi, or other microscopic soil organisms, which improves soil health, others feed on plant tissue, destroying lawns by feeding on them. nourishing on or inside the roots.

Damaging the roots reduces the grass’s ability to obtain water and nutrients from the soil. Symptoms to watch out for include yellowing, wilting, browning, thinning producing lawn patches, and even death.

For the study, the team will conduct monthly sampling from five locations in southeast and southwest Florida. Four of the sites are golf courses where nematodes are prevalent to monitor population changes of these pests. The fifth location is the turf test field at UF/IFAS FLREC.

“The idea is to determine when the nematodes are at the highest population near the top surface of the soil so that the nematodes can be better exposed to nematicides which in turn lead to population reduction and turf damage” , said Hajihassani.

The search for biological solutions to suppress the population of nematodes and fungal diseases is another research objective.

“We are trying to detect fungal and bacterial secondary metabolites that can control root-knot and sting nematodes and fungal diseases of turf,” he said.

Finally, the team will assess the economic profitability of the practices developed and will implement extension and awareness-raising activities.