Nematodes are tiny but complex unsegmented round-worms that are anatomically differentiated for feeding, digestion, locomotion, and reproduction. These small animals occur worldwide in all environments. Most species are beneficial to agriculture. They make important contributions to organic matter decomposition and to the food chain. Some species, however, are parasitic to plants or animals.
Economic Impact of Nematodes
In the United States alone nematode damage in major crops is estimated to reduce crop values by more than $5 billion annually.
The Society of Nematologists and other organizations estimate global crop losses due to nematodes at $100 billion annually. Plant-parasitic nematodes are the largest unmet pest problem facing agriculture today. Approximately 28% of US crop acreage planted with field crops, vegetables, potatoes, fruits and nuts is infested with nematodes at economically damaging levels. The levels of infestations are even higher in the southern hemisphere, and among certain specialty crops. It is estimated that 40% of US strawberry acreage is infested with nematodes and 70% of the acreage receives chemical nematicide treatment. 900,000 acres of peanuts in the US are infested by the root-knot nematode, causing $81 million in losses annually.
(Reference: Pasteuria Bioscience)
Nematode detection and identification requires the services of a professional nematologist. Identification of nematode species level is essential prerequisite for a control tactics. However, identification is difficult because there are few morphological characteristics of taxonomic value for rapidly and accurately differentiating many genera of nematodes. Diagnostic labs therefore usually identify parasitic nematodes only to the genus level and do not differentiate species as a regular component of the testing service. AGNEMA™ specialized in both genera and species identification. Molecular procedures using a single DNA extract from soil is also available to precisely differentiate and quantify individual species of plant parasitic nematodes.