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Development of a sustainable strategy for the management of root-knot nematodes in vegetable crops in southern Europe - an alternative to the use of methylbromide

Contract nr: FAIR-CT97-3444
Project nr: 3444
Project type: SC
Starting date: 01/03/1998
Duration: 36 months
Total cost: 1,198,172 EUR
EC Contribution: 889,000 EUR
Scientific Officer: Massimo BURIONI
Research topic: Plant health
Acronym: Biomanagement of Rkn

Nematicides include some of the most toxic compounds used in agriculture and horticulture. Some European countries have legislated to reduce their use. Methyl bromide, which is widely used as a soil sterilant in horticulture in southern Europe, will be banned in 2005 because of its ozone-depleting properties. There is an urgent need to develop alternatives to the use of this fumigant for the control of plant parasitic nematodes. The fungus Verticillium chlamydosporium is widespread in cyst and root-knot nematode infested soils around the world and parasitises the females and eggs of the nematode. The fungus has considerable potential as a biological control agent for root-knot nematodes, especially when it is applied in combination with other control measures such as partially resistant plants or nematicides. The project aims to evaluate the potential of this fungus for the control of root-knot nematodes.

This project will lead to the development of a sustainable strategy for the management of root-knot nematodes in vegetable crops in southern Europe and will evaluate an alternative to the use of the soil fumigant, methyl bromide.
The project provides a model for the practical application of a soil applied biological control agent and the development of a rational policy for such releases.

The specific research objectives are to:
1. Evaluate the efficacy of the biomanagement strategy in commercial production systems and to compare the control of root-knot populations and crop yields with conventional control methods using methyl bromide and with integrated procedures that combine the use of the biological control agent, granular nematicides and crop rotation.
2. Develop methods to monitor the fungus after its release using immunological and molecular techniques.
3. Measure the impact of the fungus on soil microbial diversity and non-target organisms.

The programme is innovative and will:
- provide new microbiological techniques for studies of fungi in the rhizosphere.
- develop a novel environmentally benign strategy for nematode control.
- provide new information on the ecology and spread of biological agents after their release in the field.
- for the first time, establish a comprehensive dataset to assess the practicality and risk assessment of a biomanagement strategy for nematode pests.

The project will lead to the development of non or low chemical methods of nematode management which are more environmentally friendly than existing methods and will lead to a reduction in inputs. Thus it is in line with Article 3 of CAP Directive 91 414 and COMDOC (93) 202 aimed at alternatives to the use of methyl bromide. The environmental impact of the new strategies being developed will be measured, but these rely on the exploitation of a natural control agent which has proved environmentally benign. The project aims to improve plant health and the quality of vegetable crops. The new methods developed will be rigorously assessed for their economic sustainability by the Steering Group.

Current situation/results:
The fungus, Verticillium chlamydosporium has been found infecting the eggs of root-knot nematodes in Italy, Portugal and Spain. The isolates have been characterised biologically and genetically and although there is much variation, similar isolates have been found in all countries. Molecular markers that enable variation in the fungus to be identified and the presence of the fungus on roots to be monitored have been produced, along with monoclonal antibodies to monitor fungal growth on roots. The fungus is compatible with most agrochemicals used in horticultural production in southern Europe and no detrimental effects have been observed on host plants or beneficial organisms in the rhizosphere. The fungus in combination with other control measures is being evaluated for control of root-knot nematodes on vegetable crops in trials on commercial holdings in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.


IACR - Rothamsted
UK-AL5 2JQ Harpenden
Tel: +44 1582 76 31 33
Fax: +44 1582 76 09 81


  • Manuel Galvao De Melo MOTA
    Universidade de Evora
    R. Dos Colegiais 2
    P-7000 Evora
    Tel: +351 6 622 106
    Fax: +351 6 671 12 31

    Universidade de Coimbra
    Department de Zoologia
    Largo Marques De Pombal
    P-3000 Coimbra
    Tel: +351 3 934 729
    Fax: +351 3 926 811

  • Luis Vicente LOPEZ-LLORCA
    Universidad de Alicante
    Ctra. De San Vicente Del Raspeig S/N
    E-03080 Alicante
    Tel: +34 96 590 34 00
    Fax: +34 96 590 38 15

    Institut de Recerca i Tecnologia Agroalimentaries
    Passeig De Gracia 44
    E-08007 Barcelona
    Tel: +34 93 750 75 11
    Fax: +34 93 753 39 54
    E-mail: Soledad.Verdejo@IRTA.ES

  • Aurelio CIANCIO
    Consiglio Nazionale delle Richerche
    Piazzale Aldo Moro 7
    I-00185 Rome
    Tel: +39 08 054 841 89
    Fax: +39 08 054 841 65

    National Agricultural Research Foundation
    Egialias 19 & Chalepa
    GR-151 25 Maroussi
    Tel: +30 812 409 86
    Fax: +30 812 458 58
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