What damage do nematodes cause?
Make no mistake, nematodes can and do cause serious damage to corn. In most states with substantial corn acreage, conservative estimates have yield losses due to nematodes well into the tens of millions of dollars each crop year. Regrettably, many farmers don’t know it. These microscopic pests can cause considerable damage during critical early corn growth stages, and can be difficult to diagnose because there may be no visual symptoms.
Nematodes cause significant damage to vulnerable crops by feeding on plant roots, transmitting viruses, and facilitating bacterial and fungal infections. Nematode damage may provide an entry point for other plant pathogens to invade the root and further weaken the plant.
Since nematodes are parasites, their feeding not only directly impacts plants, but secondarily impacts plant vigor and defensive characteristics leaving the plant more open to other stressors.
Due to the difficulty involved in precisely identifying nematodes, nematode injury in corn fields is often mistaken for other problems. Damage such as discoloration, stunting and reduction in stalk diameter and root size is often misdiagnosed as herbicide injury, drought stress, disease or micronutrient deficiencies. Although visual symptoms may be mistaken for problems other than nematodes, one thing is for certain: yield and profit potential can be severely impacted. The only way to accurately identify nematode damage is through collection and analysis of soil and root samples at a nematode diagnostic laboratory.