What Is A Golden Nematode: Learn About Golden Nematode Control

(Image credit: Miyuki-3)

If you’ve never read any golden nematode information, you might not know about golden nematodes in gardens. Golden nematodes are among the world’s most damaging pests of potato plants and other plants in the nightshade family. Read on for more golden nematode information including methods of golden nematode control.

What is a Golden Nematode?

They may be termed “golden,” but that doesn’t mean they are good for your garden. What is a golden nematode? It is an insect that attacks plants in the nightshade family including potatoes, eggplant, and tomato plants. Golden nematode information helps you understand how these pests injure your garden plants. The damage is done when the golden nematode is in the larval stage. Larvae live on or near the host plant’s roots and bore into the plant roots to suck out their juices, weakening and eventually killing the plants.

Golden Nematode Information

The life cycle of the golden nematode has three stages: egg, larva, and adult. Golden nematodes in gardens pass through these life stages in between five and seven weeks. The female adult mates, then lays eggs on the host plant’s roots. The female nematodes die and their bodies harden into cysts that cover and protect the eggs. The cysts are tiny, no bigger than a pinhead, yet each can contain some 500 golden nematode eggs. The eggs stay dormant in the soil for up to 30 years until the host plants release a chemical that stimulates the eggs to hatch into larvae. Hatched larvae enter the roots and begin feeding. Since the roots are the first part of the plant infested, you may not notice anything immediately. In time, you will see that your plants are not thriving. If the infestation is heavy, the plant foliage yellows, wilts, and dies.

Treating for Golden Nematodes

Golden nematode control is difficult. Golden nematodes in gardens usually arrive when soil containing cysts finds its way into your backyard. This can happen via infected seed potatoes, flower bulbs, or garden tools. If you live in an area with a nematode infestation, regulations are probably in place requiring field workers to clean and disinfect equipment. Your best move toward golden nematode control is to plant nematode-resistant plant varieties and to rotate these with other, non-host crops like corn, soybeans, or wheat. In areas of the country fighting nematode infestations, growers wishing to plant potatoes can be obligated to follow a crop rotation plan designed by scientists to reduce the spread of the cysts, and is monitored by inspectors to ensure compliance. How about treating for golden nematodes with chemicals? Chemicals used to control nematodes – termed nematicides – are available. When you are treating for golden nematodes in special situations, the use of these may help.

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.