Conserving and Enhancing Biological Control of Nematodes.

Patricia Timper


Conservation biological control is the modification of the environment or existing practices to protect and enhance antagonistic organisms to reduce damage from pests. This approach to biological control has received insufficient attention com- pared with inundative applications of microbial antagonists to control nematodes. This review provides examples of how production practices can enhance or diminish biological control of plant-parasitic nematodes and other soilborne pests. Antagonists of nem- atodes can be enhanced by providing supplementary food sources such as occurs when organic amendments are applied to soil. However, some organic amendments (e.g., manures and plants containing allelopathic compounds) can also be detrimental to nematode antagonists. Plant species and genotype can strongly influence the outcome of biological control. For instance, the susceptibility of the plant to the nematode can determine the effectiveness of control; good hosts will require greater levels of suppression than poor hosts. Plant genotype can also influence the degree of rhizosphere colonization and antibiotic production by antagonists, as well the expression of induced resistance by plants. Production practices such as crop rotation, fallow periods, tillage, and pesticide applications can directly disrupt populations of antagonistic organisms. These practices can also indirectly affect antagonists by reducing their primary nematode host. One of the challenges of conservation biological control is that practices intended to protect or enhance suppression of nematodes may not be effective in all field sites because they are dependent on indigenous antagonists. Ultimately, indicators will need to be identified, such as the presence of particular antagonists, which can guide decisions on where it is practical to use conservation biological control. Antagonists can also be applied to field sites in conjunction with conservation practices to improve the consistency, efficacy, and duration of biological control. In future research, greater use should be made of bioassays that measure nematode suppression because changes in abundance of particular antagonists may not affect biological control of plant parasites.

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