Do You Want Nematodes with Your Fries?


Nematode-Damaged Potato

Farmers in Oregon and Washington grow 12 billion pounds of potatoes every year. 90% of this production is for processing into potato chips and fries. 80-90% of the potato acres in Oregon and Washington are fumigated every year to reduce populations of nematodes which are microscopic parasitic worm-like animals that live in the soil and penetrate potatoes underground. Females feed just under the potato skin and deposit 200 to 1000 eggs. Brown spots become evident when the eggs are laid. Growers fumigate the soil to reduce the nematode populations because of the potential for rejection of the potatoes for processing into consumer products.

Columbia root-knot nematode (CRN) infects and develops in potato tubers but does not cause yield loss. Columbia root-knot nematode causes quality defects such as galling on the surface and small brown spots surrounding adult females when peeled. The external and internal defects render tubers unacceptable for fresh market sales and internal defects are unacceptable for processing. For processed potatoes, if between 5% and 15% of the tubers in a field have visual defects the whole-field crop can be substantially devalued or rejected. Based on USDA 2010 yields and prices, the average gross value of potatoes in Idaho was $6,921/ha. The rejection of a potato crop grown on an average 52.6-ha center-pivot-sprinkler-irrigated field represents a loss of $364,000. The potential for dire financial consequences from the presence of CRN in potato tubers is taken very seriously by producers.

Because potential for crop rejection exists with low population levels at planting, fields with any CRN must be treated with a preplant fumigant, nonfumigant nematicides, or both.”

Authors: King, B. A., and J. P. Taberna, Jr.
Affiliation: USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Kimberly, ID
Title: Site-Specific Management of Meloidogyne chitwoodi in Idaho Potatoes Using 1,3-Dichloropropene; Approach, Experiences, and Economics
Source: Journal of Nematology. 2013. 45[3]:202-213.

Stopping the Nematode Threat to Potatoes with Fumigation


PCN Damage (right)


PCN cyst hatching

Cyst nematodes are a huge potential threat to potato production in the US. Nematodes are microscopic unsegmented worms. Roots of infected plants contain minute, white bodies of females. When a female dies, its cuticle forms a protective cyst containing 200 to 500 eggs. Cysts containing viable eggs can persist in the soil for up to 20 years. When potatoes are planted, root exudates stimulate juvenile nematodes to emerge from eggs. The juveniles locate and enter potato roots. They cut through cell walls and feed. Infection with nematodes reduces root biomass, which can lead to stunting of plants, yellowing and wilting of foliage and small tubers. Heavy infestations often results in total crop loss. Potato cyst nematodes are widespread in many countries, but only two localized infestations have occurred in the US. The latest infestation, found in Idaho in 2006, has led to a strict treatment program with fumigants.

“Two species of potato cyst nematode are found in the United States: Globodera pallida, the pale cyst nematode (PCN), was first found in Idaho in 2006, whereas the golden nematode, G. rostochiensis (GN), was first found in New York in 1941. Both species are regulated under a Federal Domestic Quarantine Order (USDA-APHIS) and parallel State Rules (Idaho State Dept. of Agriculture, New York State Dept. of Agriculture), and eradication effects are underway.

While some resistance to PCN is present in potato varieties grown in Europe and elsewhere in the U.S., there is no resistance in most of Idaho’s signature russet varieties.

The presence of G. pallida in Idaho has been viewed with alarm by other states and countries that import Idaho potatoes and other farm products. After the initial Idaho PCN detection in 2006, markets for Idaho fresh potato products and nursery stock were lost for Canada, Mexico, and Korea. Japan temporarily closed the market for all U.S. potatoes, and continues to disallow Idaho shipments. Consequently, eradication of PCN is a top priority for the Idaho potato industry, including the Idaho Potato Commission, the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, and USDA-APHIS. Millions of dollars have been spent in Idaho in eradication efforts. A critical component of this work has been treatment of infested fields with the fumigant methyl bromide (MeBr), which has been ongoing since the spring of 2007. Lab tests conducted after each treatment indicate a 95% viability reduction after one year’s fumigation, and over 99% viability reduction after successive treatments.”

Author: Dandurand, L. M.
Affiliation: University of Idaho, Moscow
Title: Novel Eradication Strategies for Pale Cyst Nematode
Source: Potato Progress. September 16, 2013. Volume XIII, Number 10.

To Remain Viable, California Strawberry Growers will need to use Fumigants for Years to Come

Strawberry Production: California

Strawberry Production: California

California is the top strawberry growing state producing 2-3 billion pounds per year. California accounts for 20% of the world’s production of strawberries. Since about 1965, approximately 90% of strawberry land in California has been fumigated before each crop is planted. Statewide average strawberry yields tripled following the adoption of fumigation. Generally, the increase in strawberry yield is credited to effective control of the soilborne fungal disease, verticillium wilt, which attacks the water-conducting tissue of the plant. In recent years, the use of fumigants in California has been under intense regulatory review with a phaseout of methyl bromide and use restrictions which could include expanded buffer zones in strawberry fields where fumigation will not be permitted. A recent working group in California assessed the status of nonfumigant alternatives……

“Owing to potentially devastating soilborne pests, strawberry growers have relied on soil fumigation treatments for many years.

Director Brian Leahy of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation convened in April 2012 a working group of industry and scientific leaders to develop an action plan of research priorities for developing cost-effective management tools and practices for soilborne pests of strawberries in the absence of conventional fumigants.

The Working Group recognized that over the last 20 years, many studies focused on breeding disease-resistant plants and testing soil treatments such as anaerobic soil disinfestation, biopesticides, biofumigants, soilless substrate, steam, and solarization.

Yet to be done is testing combinations of alternatives in extensive field trials and on-farm demonstrations.

Full implementation of the action plan will require a major commitment of time and resources by a broad range of groups in the private and public sectors, such as researchers, funding institutions, growers, grower organizations, farmworker advocates, community and environmental organizations, and consumers.

Even with full commitment to implement this action plan, the strawberry industry will need to continue its use of fumigants for years to remain viable in California.”

Title: Nonfumigant strawberry production working group action plan
Source: California DPR. April 2013. Available at:

EPA Recognizes Value of Fumigants in Peanut Fields

Normal Peanuts and Black Rot Peanuts

Fumigated and Non-Fumigated

The disease known as cylindrocladium black rot (CBR) grows best in cool soils and is a major problem in the Virginia and North Carolina peanut regions. Entire pods may turn black and rot. The fungus may survive several years in the soil. Disease incidences in excess of 80% have occurred. The soil fumigant, metam sodium applied 8-10 inches below rows at least two weeks prior to planting has been the standard recommendation for control of CBR since 1985. Recently, the USEPA conducted a study of the value of metam sodium for peanuts and concluded that…

“Thus, the main benefit of metam sodium is that it permits cultivation of peanuts that would otherwise not be economically viable. …a large proportion of peanut acreage in the North Carolina-Virginia region depends on metam sodium simply to make production economically viable.”

Authors: A. Chiri, and T. J. Wyatt
Affiliations: EPA, Office of Pesticide Programs, Biological and Economic Analysis Division.
Title: Assessment of the Benefits of Soil Fumigation with Metam Sodium in Peanut Production.
Publication: U.S. EPA. (2007). Assessment of the benefits of soil fumigation with metam sodium in peanut production (DP#337490). Available at!home

North American Ginseng Production Depends on Fumigation

Roots of American ginseng are common ingredients in herbal medicines. However, being a root crop subjects ginseng to attacks by soil-dwelling organisms, which cause root rot of ginseng seedlings. In order to prevent damage to the roots, growers typically fumigate fields before the ginseng crop is planted.

“An important component of many traditional Asian herbal medicines is dried root of American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.). … Although indigenous to the forests of eastern North America, most of the world supply of dried root is now provided by crops grown in cultivated fields under artificial shade structures. Over two-thirds of Canada’s ginseng crop is grown in the sandy soils of southwestern Ontario.”

“Current production methods provide environments favourable to disease development, and crop loss due to disease is significant. Although ginseng germplasm is diverse, disease-resistant cultivars are not available. … To reduce risk of damage from soilborne species of Pythium and nematodes, ginseng growers normally fumigate fields prior to seeding.” 

Authors: R.D. Reeleder¹, J. Miller¹, B. Capell¹ and J. Schooley²
Affiliation: ¹Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Ontario, Canada; ²Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Ontario, Canada.
Title: Mefenoxan sensitivity and the impact of fumigation on Pythium species and Phytophthora cactorum in ginseng soils.
Publication: Canadian Journal of Plant Pathology. (2007) 29:427-436.

Chinese Ginger Relies on Soil Fumigation

Ginger, a root crop, is exposed to attack by soil-borne pathogens, nematodes, insects and weed competition. Chinese farmers produce 300,000 tons (FAO) of this important worldwide spice annually from fields that are fumigated prior to planting. A recent experiment showed that the fumigation with methyl bromide doubled ginger yields…

“Ginger weight per category and total weight were significantly affected by the fumigation programs. In the experiment, the highest yield of extra-large fruit (8.6 t/ha) was obtained in the MeBr treatment, while the lowest was achieved in the non-treated control (3.5 t/ha). … A similar trend was observed for total marketable fruit yield, where the highest yield (76.4 t/ha) was produced in the MeBr treatment plots; [while the lowest yield (48.2 t/ha) was achieved in the control plots].”

Authors: Kang Qiao, Yukun Zhu†, Hongyan Wang, Xiaoxue Ji*, Kaiyun Wang†
Affiliation: †Shandong Agricultural University, ‡Shangdong Academy of Agricultural Sciences, *Plant Protection and Inspection Station of Feicheng
Title: Effects of 1,3-dichloropropene as a methyl bromide alternative for management of nematode, soil-borne disease, and weed in ginger (Zingiber officinale) crops in China.
Publication: Crop Protection (2012) 32:71-75.