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Welcome To Our Lab

The University of Florida Landscape Nematology Lab is the premier laboratory dedicated to diagnosis and management of plant-parasitic nematodes affecting turfgrasses and ornamental plants. Our goal is to provide the turfgrass and ornamental industries the information and technologies they need to minimize the harmful effects of nematodes in an effective, safe, and environmentally responsible manner.

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    On-going research

    The research conducted by the Landscape Nematology Lab at UF focuses on development of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) of nematodes that damage turfgrasses and ornamental plants. The goal of our research is to supply the green industry with the tools needed to manage plant-parasitic nematodes in a manner that is effective, economical, and environmentally sustainable.

    The foundation of IPM is accurate pest identification and damage prediction. We conduct research on improved nematode diagnostic methods and development of “Risk Thresholds” used to predict the amount of risk associated with a given species of nematode on a particular type of plant. This also entails basic research on nematode biology, life-cycles, and ecological interactions. The knowledge gained from this research is used by the Florida Nematode Assay Lab and other diagnostic labs to advise their clientele if, and which, nematodes are likely to become a problem. This assures that appropriate measures can be implemented to avoid or treat nematode problems, and reduces the incidence of unwarranted pesticide applications. Example: Our research identified two species of stubby- root nematodes that are commonly found on turfgrasses in Florida. We also found that one species (Nanidorus minor) is less damaging than the other (Trichodorus obtusus) and we learned how to readily distinguish the two. This led to the use of a higher risk threshold for the less damaging nematode, previously there was a common thresholds for both. Because Nanidorus minor exceeds the new risk threshold infrequently, nematicide applications to manage them occurs less frequently than before.

    Once nematodes are accurately identified and quantified, plants can often be used which are less likely to be damaged by the nematodes present in a specific area. Use of resistant or tolerant plants, which are less likely to be damaged by nematodes, is key in IPM strategies. We conduct research evaluating different ornamental plants and turfgrasses to determine how susceptible they are to different kinds of nematodes. This information is used by Cooperative Extension staff and other crop advisors to advise their clientele as to what plants to use in a specific area that will have less pest problems and require fewer pesticide applications. We also cooperate with plant breeders in the development of nematode resistant and tolerant plant cultivars which will be used in the future. Example: Sting nematode (Belonolaimus longicaudatus) is very damaging to bermudagrass used on athletic fields, golf course fairways, and lawns. ‘Tifway’ bermudagrass is the cultivar that is most commonly used for these purposes. Our research found that ‘Celebration’ bermudagrass is more tolerant of sting nematodes than Tifway. As a result of our research, use of Celebration is increasing, and fewer nematicide applications are being made.

    Pest management with cultural practices involves changing the way a crop is grown to avoid pest problems. We conduct research on the various environmental factors that regulate nematode reproduction and activity and seek to manipulate these factors to avoid nematode damage. Example: In much of Florida bermudagrass goes dormant during the winter. Sometimes golf courses will overseed with a winter grass to have growing grass and green color during the winter. Our research found that numbers of sting nematode were double in the spring on overseeded bermudagrass than on non- overseeded bermudagrass. As a result, more Florida golf courses are avoiding overseeding and are experiencing fewer nematode problems as a result.

    For the past half century, nematode management on turf and ornamentals was dominated by organophosphate and carbamate pesticides. Due to human safety and environmental concerns these highly toxic nematicides are no longer being used. We work closely with companies to develop nematicides and bionematicides that are effective, but less harmful to non-target organisms than the older nematicides. We seek to identify promising technologies and work closely with companies in developing commercial products. We do extensive research on application timing, rates, and formulations so that treatments can be used practically and effectively. Example: Our research on the bacterium Bacillus firmis strain I-1582 aided the development of Nortica, a biological agent used for management of nematodes on turfgrasses. Our results showed that Nortica, when applied early, could protect turfgrass roots from nematode damage. In 2011-2012, Nortica was used on over 50% of Florida golf courses.

    For a complete list of our publications, click here.

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