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Managing the soil biological community to improve soil health and reduce losses from nematode pests

Code: 9781838796013
Graham R. Stirling, Biological Crop Protection Pty Ltd, Australia

Chapter synopsis: Plant-parasitic nematodes commonly cause yield losses of 10 to 20% in sugarcane, largely because varieties with resistance to key pests such as Pratylenchus and Meloidogyne are unavailable, rotation crops provide only temporary control and nematicides are prohibitively expensive. Given the inadequacy of conventional control measures, this chapter views nematode management from a systems perspective. It argues that plant-parasitic nematodes have only become pests because cane-growing soils have been exploited for many years and are physically, chemically and biologically degraded. Soil carbon levels have declined by 60–80% and since organic matter is the energy source that fuels the soil food web, the regulatory mechanisms that normally suppress nematode populations are no longer operative. Also, crops are unable to tolerate nematode damage, because their roots are growing in a suboptimal physical and chemical environment and are not functioning effectively. The only long-term solution is to restore the health of sugar cane soils. This means reducing tillage, addressing the compaction problems caused by harvest machinery and increasing soil carbon levels by retaining crop residues and amending soil with organic materials. These and other tactics required to build an active and diverse biological community capable of restoring soil health and suppressing nematode pests are discussed.

DOI: 10.19103/AS.2017.0035.24
Table of contents 1 Introduction 2 Nematode pests of sugarcane 3 Economic importance of plant-parasitic nematodes 4 Nematode control measures 5 Nematode management from a systems perspective 6 Nematode pests: only one component of the soil biological community 7 Integrated soil biology management 8 Improving soil health and reducing losses from nematode pests 9 Sugarcane farming systems to improve soil health and enhance sustainability 10 The impact of improved farming systems on nematode pests and their natural enemies 11 Future challenges 12 Conclusions 13 Where to look for further information 14 References

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