Growers urged to soil test for nematodes prior to winter plant

Author: Sarah Jeffrey | Date: 29 Apr 2014

Key Points

  • Root-lesion nematodes are present in approximately 70 percent of fields in the northern grain belt and can slash yields by up to 50% in wheat and 20% in chickpeas.
  • All major winter crops, wheat, barley and chickpeas, are susceptible to the root-lesion nematode species P. thornei and encourage the proliferation of nematode populations.
  • Growers who haven’t soil tested in recent years are urged to undertake soil testing to establish species present and baseline levels of populations.

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) soil microbiologist Dr Kirsty Owen

Northern growers looking to reap the rewards from a promising start to the winter cropping season should soil test for root-lesion nematodes prior to planting to avoid losing up to 50 percent yield in intolerant wheat and up to 20 percent in chickpea crops.

Significant yield losses in this year’s winter crops would be a devastating blow to the many growers across Queensland and New South Wales who had a disappointing 2013/14 summer season due to the extremely hot and dry weather conditions.

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) soil microbiologist Dr Kirsty Owen told growers and advisors at the recent Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Grains Research Update at Goondiwindi that a pre-sowing assessment of soil nematode populations was critical to minimise the risk of yield loss through crop and variety selection.

“If it has been three or four years since the soil has been tested, the first thing to do is test for nematodes and that service is offered now through PreDicta B in SARDI (South Australian Research and Development Institute),” Dr Owen said.

“From there it can be determined whether the nematodes are either Pratylenchus thornei (P. thornei) or Pratylenchus neglectus as they are two different species and require different management.

“Those growers looking to plant wheat then need to consult the 2014 Wheat Variety Guide, look at the tolerance data and select the most tolerant variety for the particular nematodes present in the soil.

“The other consideration with wheat varieties is susceptibility. If growers can choose a variety with low susceptibility that’s really going to improve the environment for your rotations.”

Root-lesion nematodes are microscopic worms in the soil that swim in free water and largely live inside root systems and are present in approximately 70% of fields in Australia’s northern region cropping belt.

As they feed on root cells causing lesions the plant’s root systems become inefficient at water and nutrient uptake.

The GRDC-supported root-lesion nematode trial work which is currently being undertaken by DAFF is particularly relevant to growers in areas where winter crops are an important part of the rotation as all major winter crops – wheat, barley and chickpeas – are susceptible to P. thornei and encourage the proliferation of nematode populations.

In chickpeas, root-lesion nematodes can potentially slash yields by up to 20 percent under high populations.

Dr Owen said trial work suggested that HatTrick was less susceptible than other chickpea varieties like Kyabra or Amethyst indicating that yield losses could be managed with varietal selection.

Audio download: Download the audio file from the downloads box below to hear Dr Kirsty Owen from DAFF talking about the management of root-lesion nematodes in the lead up to the winter cropping season. 

For Interviews

Louise Morgan, DAFF Senior Media & Communication Officer
07 3087 8576


Sarah Jeffrey, Senior Consultant Cox Inall Communications
0418 152859

GRDC Project Code DAV00128

Region North, South, West