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Fighting potato damaging worms with fungi

By Tim Sandle     Oct 4, 2014 in Environment
Veracruz - The parasitic worm Globodera rostochiensis causes damage to potatoes by spoiling them and rendering them inedible. Scientists have developed a way to stop the worm through the use of fungi as a biological weapon.
Globodera rostochiensis is more often known as the golden nematode. The worm is a plant pathogenic nematode (a type of roundworm). The worm damages many type of plants. This is through forming cysts on the roots of the plant. The cysts, which are composed of dead nematodes, are produced in order to protect the female's eggs. The infective cysts are of a yellow-brown in color.
The primary means of treating the the worms and their cysts is through the application of toxic chemicals. This, however, can be a little "hit and miss" and it also carries environmental risks, in terms of the run-off of toxic chemicals. Furthermore chemical penetration is difficult because the nematode egg shell is rigid and contains a tough chitin-protein complex, making it resistant to many pesticides.
To find an alternative treatment, scientists based at the Network of Biodiversity and Systematics at INECOL (Institute of Ecology), succeeded in locating, identifying and testing various fungi that are capable of feeding off the nematode, thereby killing it before the worm can infect the plant.
The fungi that were able to combat the worms, included a Septocylindrium-like fungus, Exophiala species and a Cylindrocarpon species. Successful trials were performed in potato fields in Veracruz, in the west coast of Mexico. This area was targeted because it has seen widespread loss of potato crops due to the worms.
Through trials on the fungus, a form of biological pest control was effectively achieved. The results of the study have yet to be published. However, the results are encouraging and further research will be conducted. The new tranche of research is likely to focus on getting the selected strains of fungi to the fields and targeting at risk crops early. With this latter point, the research showed that younger worm eggs are generally more susceptible to fungal attack than older ones.
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