You are on page 1of 34


Assistant Professor
University of Southeastern Philippines Tagum-Mabini Campus
College of Agriculture and Related Sciences
Mabini, ComVal Province
E-mail Address:

Plant-parasitic nematodes
are small, 300 to 1,000
micrometers, with some up
to 4 millimeters long, by
1535 micrometers wide.

Fig. 2. Morphology
and main
characteristics of
typical male and
female plant

Fig. 3. Morphology and related sizes of some of

the most important plant parasitic nematodes.

Their small diameter makes them

invisible to the naked eye, but they
can be observed easily under the
Nematodes are, in general, eel shaped
and round in cross section, with
smooth, unsegmented bodies, without
legs or other appendages.
The females of some species, however,
become swollen at maturity and have
pear-shaped or spheroid bodies

The nematode body is more or less
It is covered by a colorless cuticle, which
is usually marked by striations or other
The cuticle molts when a nematode
goes through the successive
juvenile stages.
The cuticle is produced by the
hypodermis, which consists of living
cells and extends into the body cavity as
four chords separating four bands of
longitudinal muscles.
The muscles enable the nematode to

The body cavity contains a fluid

through which circulation
and respiration take place.
The digestive system is a hollow
tube extending from the mouth
through the esophagus, intestine,
rectum, and anus.
Lips, usually six in number,
surround the mouth. Most plant
parasitic nematodes have a
hollow stylet or spear, but a few
have a solid modified spear.
The spear is used to puncture
holes in plant cells and through
which to withdraw nutrients from
the cells.

The reproductive systems of nematodes

are well developed.
Females have one or two ovaries,
followed by an oviduct and uterus
terminating in a vulva.
The male reproductive structure is
similar to that of the female, but there is
a testis, seminal vesicle, and a terminus
in a common opening with the intestine.
A pair of protrusible, copulatory spicules
are also present in the male.
Reproduction in plant parasitic
nematodes is through eggs and may be
sexual or parthenogenetic.
Many species lack males.

Life Cycles
The life histories of most plant
parasitic nematodes are, in general,
quite similar.
Eggs hatch into juveniles, whose
appearance and structure are
usually similar to those of the adult
Juveniles grow in size, and each
juvenile stage is terminated by a

Fig. 4a. Stages in a life cycle and the infection process of plant parasitic nematodes.
Nematode eggs. (B). Nematode eggs and hatching second-stage juvenile.
(C) Typical plant parasitic nematode ready to infect plant. (D) Juvenile
and adult ectoparasitic ring nematodes feeding on root.

All nematodes have four juvenile

stages, with the first molt usually
occurring in the egg.
After the final molt the nematodes
differentiate into males and
The female can then produce
fertile eggs either after mating
with a male or, in the absence of
males, parthenogenetically.

Fig. 4b. (E) Aphelenchus nematodes present inside plant cells.

(F) Radopholus nematodes feeding inside plant root.
[Photographs courtesy of (A, C, E, and F) University of
Florida, (B) U. Zunke, (D) S. W. Westcott III.]

A life cycle from egg to egg may be

completed within 2 to 4 weeks under
optimum environmental, especially
temperature, conditions but will take
longer in cooler temperatures.
In some species of nematodes the first
or second juvenile stages cannot infect
plants and depend on the energy stored
in the egg for their metabolic functions.

When the infective stages are

produced, however, they must feed
on a susceptible host or starve to
An absence of suitable hosts may
result in the death of all individuals
of certain nematode species within a
few months, but in other species the
juvenile stages may dry up and
remain quiescent or the eggs may
remain dormant in the soil for years.

Ecology and Spread

Almost all plant pathogenic nematodes
live part of their lives in the soil.
Many live freely in the soil, feeding
superficially on roots and underground
stems, and in all, even in the specialized
sedentary parasites, the eggs, the
preparasitic juvenile stages, and the
males are found in the soil for all or part
of their lives.

Soil temperature, moisture, and aeration

affect survival and movement of
nematodes in the soil.
Nematodes occur in greatest abundance
in the top 15 to 30 centimeters of soil.
The distribution of nematodes in
cultivated soil is usually irregular and is
greatest in or around the roots of
susceptible plants, which they follow
sometimes to considerable depths (30
150 centimeters or more).

The greater concentration

of nematodes in the region
of host plant roots is due
primarily to their more rapid
reproduction on the food
supply available and also to
attraction of nematodes by
substances released into
the rhizosphere.

To these must be added the socalled hatching factor effect of

substances originating from the root
that diffuse into the surrounding
soil, markedly stimulating the
hatching of eggs of certain species.
Most nematode eggs, however,
hatch freely in water in the absence
of any special stimulus.

Nematodes spread through the soil

slowly under their own power.
The overall distance traveled by a
nematode probably does not exceed a
few meters per season.
Nematodes move faster in the soil when
the pores are lined with a thin film of
water (a few micrometers thick) than
when the soil is waterlogged.
In addition to their own movement,
however, nematodes can be spread
easily by anything that moves and can
carry particles of soil.

Farm equipment, irrigation, flood or

drainage water, animal feet, birds, and
dust storms spread nematodes in local
areas, whereas over long distances
nematodes are spread primarily with farm
produce and nursery plants.
A few nematodes that attack the
aboveground parts of plants not only
spread through the soil as described
earlier, but they are also splashed to the
plants by falling rain or overhead watering.

Some species ascend wet plant

stem or leaf surfaces on their own
Further spread takes place on
contact of infected plant parts with
adjacent healthy plants.

Two genera of the family

Aphelenchoididae, namely
Aphelenchoides (bud and leaf
nematodes) and Bursaphelenchus
(the pine wilt and red-ring
nematodes), seldom, if ever, enter
the soil.
They survive instead in the tissues
of the plants they infect and, for the
latter, in its insect vectors.

All plant parasitic nematodes
belong to the phylum Nematoda.
Most of the important parasitic
genera belong to the order
Tylenchida, but a few belong to the
order Dorylaimida.

Phylum: Nematoda
Order: Tylenchida
Suborder: Tylenchina
Superfamily: Tylenchoidea
Family: Anguinidae
Genus: Anguina, wheat or seed-gall nematode
Ditylenchus, stem or bulb nematode of
alfalfa, onion, narcissus, etc.

Family: Belonolaimidae
Genus: Belonolaimus, sting nematode of
legumes, cucurbits, etc.
Tylenchorhynchus, stunt nematode of
tobacco, corn, cotton, etc.
Family: Pratylenchidae
Genus: Pratylenchus, lesion nematode of
almost all crop plants and trees
Radopholus, burrowing nematode of
banana, citrus, coffee, sugarcane, etc.
Nacobbus, false root-knot nematode

Family: Hoplolaimidae
Genus: Hoplolaimus, lance nematode of
corn, sugarcane, cotton, alfalfa, etc.
Rotylenchus, spiral nematode of various
Heliocotylenchus, spiral nematode of
various plants
Rotylenchulus, reniform nematode of
cotton, papaya, tea, tomato, etc.
Scutellonema, dry rot nematode of yam,
cassava, etc.

Family: Heteroderidae
Genus: Globodera, round cyst
nematode of
Heterodera, cyst nematode of
tobacco, soybean,
beets, cereals
Meloidogyne, root-knot
nematode of
almost all crop plants

Superfamily: Criconematoidea
Family: Criconematidae
Genus: Criconemella, formerly
Criconema and Criconemoides, ring
nematode of woody plants, cause of
peach tree short
Hemicycliophora, sheath
nematode of
various plants

Family: Paratylenchidae
Genus: Paratylenchus, pin nematode
of various plants
Family: Tylenchulidae
Genus: Tylenchulus, citrus nematode
of citrus, grapes, olive, lilac, etc.

Suborder: Aphelenchina
Family: Aphelenchoididae
Genus: Aphelenchoides, foliar nematode
of chrysanthemum, strawberry, begonia,
rice, coconut, etc.
Bursaphelenchus, the pine wilt and the
coconut palm or red
ring nematodes

Order: Dorylaimida
Family: Longidoridae
Genus: Longidorus, needle nematode of
some plants
Xiphinema, dagger nematode of trees,
woody vines, and many annuals
Family: Trichodoridae
Genus: Paratrichodorus, stubby-root
nematode of cereals, vegetables, cranberry,
Trichodorus, stubby-root nematode of
sugar beet, potato, cereals, and apple

In terms of habitat, pathogenic

nematodes are either
ectoparasites, i.e., species that
do not normally enter
root tissue but feed only from the
outside on the cells near the root
surfaces, or endoparasites, i.e.,
species that enter the host and
feed from within.

Both of these can be either

migratory, i.e., they live freely in
the soil and feed on plants without
becoming attached or move around
inside the plant, or sedentary, i.e.,
species that, once within a root, do
not move about.
Ectoparasitic nematodes include the
ring nematodes (sedentary) and the
dagger, stubby root, and sting
nematodes (all migratory).

Endoparasitic nematodes include the

root knot, cyst, and citrus nematodes
(all sedentary), and the lesion, stem
and bulb, burrowing, leaf, stunt,
lance, and spiral nematodes (all
somewhat migratory).
Of these, the cyst, lance, and spiral
nematodes may be somewhat
ectoparasitic, at least during part of
their lives.