2022 game plan: Establish a nematode control program

It’s a new year and in many parts of the country, planting season is rapidly approaching. Now is the time to be checking notes, reviewing data and formulating a game plan for the upcoming growing season.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll provide some tips that will put you in the prime position for success. We’ll start this week discussing an invasive pest that challenges many farmers: nematodes.

According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, nematodes, also called roundworms, are the most numerous multicellular animals on earth, and farmers who have experienced their destruction would most likely agree.

In fact, according to one recent Southwest Farm Press article, it was estimated nematodes may have caused damage to as much as 30% of the Southern Plains cotton during the most recent growing season.

“Nematodes are one of our biggest yield robbers across many varieties of crops,” said Daniel Hensley, Vice President of Sales and Agronomy for Concept AgriTek. “Different forms of nematodes are located all over the United States. Typically, they’re more prevalent in lighter soils, but can be found in about every soil type.”

The number of nematodes found in farm fields and the devastation they cause isn’t uniform.

“They’re very pocketed,” he added. “You might have an 80-acre field that’s just covered in nematodes, and you go to the 80 right next to it and it might have very few nematodes.”

Seeing the tell-tale signs

Pockets of nematodes equate to pockets of crop damage, which might look like discoloration or stunted plant growth.

“I’ve never seen nematodes so bad as in one particular corn field, where the corn would go from 200 to 220 bushels down to 50 to 75 bushels, then right back up to 200 to 220 bushels,” Hensley recalled. “We’ve seen the same thing in soybeans, probably more than in any other crop, and we also see it in cotton.”

Determining the root cause of the problem is a simple as digging up the plants and looking at the root system.

“You can actually see the galling or the burning of the roots, where the nematodes have infected the root system,” Hensley said.

Keeping nematodes in check

Nematodes are nearly impossible to completely eradicate, but the key to healthy crops is hitting the problem head-on with a nematicide and then adhering to a consistent management strategy.

One of the keys to management, Hensley said, is crop rotation.

“Certain crops are not very susceptible to nematodes, where others are and if you don’t keep up with crop rotations, nematodes can become a problem,” Hensley said.

“Nematodes are weird little animals,” he added. “Most of the time you have to be very aggressive to get nematodes under control, and then you can back off and just keep a maintenance plan in place, and a lot of times they can be kept under control with just a good crop rotation.”

How ConceptAgritek can help

There are few commercial chemicals on the market today that target nematodes, and ones that do tend to be very dangerous or very expensive.

However, Concept AgriTek has developed a safe, cost-effective strategy for dealing with nematodes and preserving yields. Chitocide is a dual mode of action, EPA-registered nematicide that can be applied on row crops, fruit, vegetables, turf and ornamentals.

Chitocide is applied during planting in a 2X2 placement, in-furrow or broadcast on the soil. It is applied again prior to row closure so it is delivered to the soil. Hensley said some farmers will even make a third pass for added protection.

“When we’ve seen two to three applications out, we’ve seen very good nematode control,” Hensley said.

To learn more about Chitocide, or to find out how to get your early-pay discount, talk to your Concept AgriTek representative before the Jan. 15 deadline. More information about the entire lineup of Concept AgriTek seed treatment, planting, foliar or full-season products can be found www.conceptagritek.com.