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How do we biologically control nematodes in citric crops?
Nematodes can be a serious problem for our crops. The voracious way they act on plants can bring with it a range of diseases which, if not dealt with and controlled on time, can lead to a loss of production of the plant. So how do we do this?
What are nematodes and what do they do?
The ‘worms’ or nematodes are animals which are present in a cosmopolitan way, playing an important role in agricultural cycles. These animals belong to a different phylum, classifications, which make the word a type of biological hotchpotch when talking about them in laymen’s terms. Either way, one thing we all agree on is the damage they cause to citric plants.
Before being attacked, the plants tend to show symptoms which may be confusing and vague, which is one of the main problems when trying to correctly diagnose the infection. As most of them attack the roots, the effects they have on the part of the plant above ground may be confused with nutritional deficiencies or other types of illnesses. The most typical symptoms are yellowing of the leaves, stunted growth, early or late ripening of the fruit, withering, leaf loss, necrosis in the plant tissue or the appearance of galls in roots or other parts of the plant.
Nematode control – what can we do?
There are two ways of approaching the problem: prevention and treatment. By all means, prevention is always best. Either way, the treatment means a loss of health and productivity of the crop. Therefore, it is always better to ensure our crops’ health in the face of nematodes, as opposed to treating infestation.
There are preventative treatments for nematodes for all needs, including ecological crops. The choice we make depends on the type of citric fruit tree, the crop itself, how much of it there is, the set-up (watering methods etc.) and the condition the crop is in.
How nematodes in citric crops can be prevented
The first step to preventing infection by these animals is in ensuring a healthy crop. Trees, especially citric fruit trees are especially efficient in biologically controlling plagues. The problem arises when the infection grows and is too much for the tree to be able to fight it alone. In this sense, too much compost or water, badly managed soils or other factors which may be stressful for the citric tree, will work against it.
A good way to start with prevention is by using innovative fertilizing techniques which will ensure a healthy rhizosphere (the area which is protected by the root and the symbiotic organisms therein). This will make it difficult for a nematode infection to grow out of control. Biotechnological products, with growth promoting microorganisms, such as Bulhnova, are your best ally in ensuring healthy roots.
It is important to have good biological activity in the soil and boosted microflora in order to limit nematode attacks. This is fundamental, as by looking after our crops’ soils, we are therefore caring for the roots and the appearance of nematodes.
Another biological option is to use predatory species. This can act as prevention as well as treatment, to be used both for medium and long term. There are actually certain species which prey on nematodes which are harmless to the crops and we can thus create biological balance, highly beneficial when trying to prevent infection.
How nematodes can be treated
There are quite a few nematicides available. Many can be used for ecological growing, such as the spores we mentioned earlier, which not only prevent but which can also be used to eliminate infection. There are also specific products based on chemical substances, capable of eradicating a plague. Within this category, we can find nematostatics which stop the plague from continuing to grow and finally, there are the pure nematicides.
This classification also depends on the type of nematode that is attacking the citric crop. The endoparasite nematodes, the ones which parasite the inside of the vegetable tissue are much more difficult to treat and a nematicide may only have nematostatic properties as it is not able to eliminate all the animals.
Sometimes, despite treatment, a crop does not react favorably or on time, in order to stop maximum damage by nematode infection due to the different life cycles; it is always easier to treat nematodes on the top part of the plant as opposed to the root and in both cases, it is easier to deal with external parasites that internal ones. This is why prevention is better than cure.
To conclude, as there are so many different types of nematodes which affect plants in such different ways, as well as the wide range of treatments, the first step to deal with any problem, is to try and prevent it. Once it actually appears, we must act carefully, as soon as possible. To be able to do this, we must detect the symptoms of the disease and when possible, figure out which animal is responsible and where. Only then will we be able to choose the treatment which best suits our needs.