Calling on nature to control nematodes

Author: Michael Thomson | Date: 19 Sep 2013

Key Points

  •  Research into biological control of the costly root-lesion nematode could boost yields and reduce losses.
  • The GRDC-funded research is exploring the potential of naturally-occurring soil organisms to suppress RLN.
  • The research should result in significant economic and environment benefits.

Research into biological control of the costly root-lesion nematode (RLN) in the northern grains region could net growers big savings.

Dr Nikki Seymour, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Queensland (DAFFQ) senior soil microbiologist says RLN cost the Australian grains industry an estimated $250 million a year, including about $69m in the northern grains industry.

“These are conservative figures based on an average eight per cent yield loss on 70pc of grain fields,” Dr Seymour said.

“Enhancing suppression of root-lesion nematodes will be very likely to reduce yield loss and increase profit.”

The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) is supporting the research which aims to use naturally occurring soil organisms to fight the disease.

Dr Seymour says the research will result in the identification of the key organisms involved in the suppression of RLN in northern grain-growing soils and an understanding of soil chemical, physical and biological characteristics associated with suppressiveness. 

“This knowledge will enable grain-growers to adopt practices that will support or enhance the suppressiveness of their soils, thereby adding a biological control to the existing management strategies of crop rotation and cultivar tolerance that are used against RLN.

“While this research is being conducted primarily in the northern grains region, it is expected that the results will be generally applicable across all grain regions of Australia.

“Enhanced suppression will reduce the considerable losses caused by RLN.

“Although complete elimination of this pest from a farming system is unlikely once it is introduced, even a 10pc reduction in impacts will give significant benefit to the grower.”

Dr Seymour says environment benefits are also achievable alongside the clear economic benefits.

“Practices enhancing nematode suppression are likely to be in line with those considered generally softer on the environment such as a reduction in tillage and fertiliser use and those that improve soil carbon turnover.

“All these lead to more sustainable agricultural production with applicability Australia-wide.”

For more information on GRDC-funded research, visit


Contact Details

For Interviews

Dr Nikki Seymour
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Qld,
Senior Soil Microbiologist
07 4639 8837


Michael Thomson
Senior Consultant Cox Inall Communications
07 4927 0805

GRDC Project Code DAQ00164

Region North, South, West