Barley Plant Nematodes: What Are Some Nematodes That Affect Barley

Gardeners tend to group insects into two categories: good and bad. But some nematodes – roundworms that are not segmented – fall into both, with some 18,000 beneficial (nonparasitic) bugs and 2,000 others that are detrimental (parasitic). There are a variety of nematodes that affect barley and other small grain crops. If you have any of these crops in your garden, read on for information on nematodes of barley. We’ll also give you tips on how to prevent barley nematodes.

Barley Plant Nematodes

If you love to eat barley, you are not alone. It’s a popular grain for humans, but also for nematodes. There are not two, not three, but dozens of varieties of nematodes that affect barley, termed barley plant nematodes. Each one of these nematodes has its own characteristics, but all operate in more or less the same way as other parasitic nematodes. They are very tiny organisms that live in the soil. Each has a mouthpiece called a stylet, a stylized feeding tube. The nematodes of barley pierce the plant tissue with the stylets consume it for energy.

Barley Nematode Problems

One tiny nematode in a barley crop may not sound dangerous, but it’s very rare for a nematode to be alone. And when there are many nematodes, their consumption of barley or another cereal crop can have a detrimental effect. In fact, nematodes cause crop loss of billions of dollars in the United States alone, and much more worldwide. Barley nematode problems are usually not caused by leaf feeding, but by nematodes that feed on roots. Barley plant nematodes include stunt, pin, cereal-cyst, and root-lesion nematodes, which are all root-feeding worms.

Symptoms of Nematodes of Barley

What type of barley nematode problems might a gardener expect if a crop is infested? No particularly dramatic symptoms signal the presence of barley plant nematodes. When nematodes of barley pierce and eat parts of the plant roots, they weaken them and reduce the capacity of roots to take up and store water and nutrients. The number and depth of branch roots and hairs decreases. Barley plants don’t die, but their vigor diminishes. They may also become stunted.

How to Prevent Barley Nematodes

Are chemicals available to get rid of nematodes of barley? Yes, they are available, but they cost a lot and are not worth it for a small garden. Your better bet is to prevent barley nematodes from spreading around your crop in the first place. To that end, you can prevent barley nematodes by sanitizing garden equipment, planting resistant cultivars and rotating crops. Be sure to keep weed populations down. One more way to prevent barley nematodes from settling into your cereal crop is to delay fall planting. If you wait to plant until the soil temperature drops below 64 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius), you will reduce the development of the pests.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.