Louisiana: Monitoring for nematode pest in sweet potatoes

Louisiana State University researchers are trying to find out if an aggressive sweet potato pest has made its way into Louisiana. AgCenter nematologist Charles Overstreet is looking for the pacara earpod tree root-knot nematode. This pest was recently detected in North Carolina sweet potato fields. It originated in China and is sometimes called the guava root-knot nematode, as it has been problematic for that crop in South America.

Speaking at a Louisiana Sweet Potato Association meeting near Alexandria, Overstreet said the only other U.S. state where the nematode has been found is Florida. According to a report on the magnoliareporter.com site, he is optimistic it is not in Louisiana but said farmers should still be on the lookout for signs of infestations. 

“This is considered to be the most severe root-knot nematode in the world,” Overstreet said. “It causes more damage than any other nematode when it gets onto susceptible plants.” Nematodes, or roundworms, cause galls that hinder plant development. The guava root-knot nematode produces the largest galls Overstreet said he has ever seen, essentially turning a plant’s roots into one large, bumpy mass.

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