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First parasitic nematodes reported in biofuel crops
Date:3/17/2010

URBANA Researchers at the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) at the University of Illinois have discovered widespread occurrence of plant-parasitic nematodes in the first reported nematode survey of Miscanthus and switchgrass plants used for biofuels.

Lead researcher Tesfamariam Mekete, a U of I post-doctoral research associate, said the team's first step was to identify potential pathogenic nematodes of these top two energy-yielding cellulosic-ethanol feedstock plants.

"Nematodes are a part of our soil systems," Mekete said. "However, when it comes to potential crops for biofuel production, we simply don't know which nematodes are present in these crops and at what levels."

The 2008-09 nematode survey included samples from 37 Miscanthus and 48 switchgrass plots in Illinois, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, South Dakota and Tennessee.

All sample sites had at least two nematode species that have been reported to reduce biomass in most monocotyledon hosts. The damaging population thresholds for these nematodes to Miscanthus and switchgrass are still unknown. However, the population densities encountered may present a potential risk to biofuels production when compared with threshold densities reported on other monocotyledon hosts, Mekete said.

Researchers discovered lesion (Pratylenchus), dagger (Xiphinema), needle (Longidorus), lance (Hoplolaimus), stunt (Tylenchorhynchus), spiral (Helicotylenchus), and ring (Criconema) in Miscanthus and switchgrass. These nematodes have previously been reported to cause damage to several plant species such as corn, bent grass, switchgrass and turf grasses.

"The high levels of nematodes found in our survey and the damage symptoms observed in infected roots suggest parasitism may contribute to the decline of biomass production," Mekete said.

Needle nematodes, discovered at high levels in the sandy
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Contact: Jennifer Shike
jshike@illinois.edu
217-244-0888
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert

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