Wheat-tomato rotation helps thwart nematodes

05/14/2013 09:52:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

processing tomatoesVicky BoydNematode-resistant wheat acts as a trap crop, reducing nematode populations for the subsequent tomato crop.A wheat-tomato rotation may help reduce soilborne nematodes better than leaving a field fallow. But not just any wheat will do—it has to be rootknot nematode-resistant wheat.

Those are the results of a study conducted by a group led by University of California, Davis, nematology professor Valerie Williamson and published in the journal Crop Science.

The resistant wheat serves as a trap crop to trick the nematodes into starting their life cycle but then prevents them from reproducing, according to a news release.

The crops work much better than leaving a field fallow, which allows the nematodes to survive until they find a suitable host—in this case, the next season of tomatoes.

Finding trap crops resistant to nematodes may be difficult, and researchers say they were surprised to find the Lassik variety into which a resistance gene had been inserted.

The past three bread wheat varieties released by the University of California wheat breeding program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture-supported Triticeae-CAP project also carry the resistance gene.

Some rotations may be less attractive to farmers because they aren't as valuable.

“What’s nice about this finding is that wheat is what farmers often use as a rotation crop in California,” Williamson said in the release.

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