Photos from the Field: Nematode assay

by | Mar 14, 2011

Former NCDA&CS employee Nancy Hinnant runs a nematode assay in 1981.

Many farmers turn to the NCDA&CS Agronomic Services Division to find out what nutrients are absent from their soil. They use this information to know how to enrich the soil for greater crop yields. Often times, though, it’s not what’s missing from the soil, but what’s present in the soil that could cost farmers.

Plant-parasitic nematodes are microscopic threadworms, most of which live in the soil and feed on plant roots. Nematodes can go untreated because the symptoms are blamed on nutrient deficiencies, disease or drought. Once roots are damaged by nematodes, other diseases can infect plants.

For more than 30 years, analysts with the Agronomic Division have run assays to test for nematodes, helping farmers and home gardeners. A test can determine the presence of at least 46 different plant-parasitic nematodes. If nematodes are found, the division also can help farmers assess the severity of the problem and find management strategies that can increase crop yields, save farmers money on unnecessary pesticides and prevent runoff of harmful chemicals into ground water.

The division recommends testing for nematodes before planting spring vegetables. Currently, nematode assays are being processed in about a week. You can find out how to get your nematode assay on the division’s website.