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Action of Plant-Parasitic Nematodes On Their Hosts

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For more content, see Nematology.

A theory of nematode-plant relations, based on quantitative treatment of plant-parasitic nematodes and host root systems was developed, with emphasis on a separation of parasitic and pathogenic action and the effects of host root diameter. Approximations to real root systems were derived from a cylindric model, of constant volume, with length and area related to root diameter. Area was taken as the curved surface of a cylinder, exclusive of ends; since root tip area is cancelled by that portion of the parent root masked by branch root emergence. A special root model treating only the tips of branch roots and with area represented by the end of a cylinder was developed as a basis for numerical analysis of root-tip feeding nematodes. Parasitic action on the host is distinguished by sparseness of root system; pathogenic action by necrosis and growth malformation. Both parasites and pathogens extract host substance, inject enzymes to facilitate extraction and produce mechanical injury by their feeding activities; both may cause stunting and other reactions of the host. Pathogens differ intrinsically from parasites by their ability to inject toxic or incitant substances into the host. Parasites comprise more than 90 per cent of known species of plant-parasitic nematodes and involve much greater numbers of hosts and total geographical crop areas than pathogens. The theory stresses the importance of population levels, the effects on young plants, the biological control of plant-parasite nematodes, and suggests designs for basic tests of their parasitic and pathogenic action. The theory predicts that: (a) plant damage is related to diameter of roots attacked, (b) parasites are capable of causing significant crop losses, (c) certain conditions must exist before crop losses can occur, (d) resistance of small grasses to root-knot and reniform nematodes occurs because their roots are of insufficient diameter to support development and reproduction of the females.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Plant Pathology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S.A.


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