Natural chemical helps protect plant roots

07/01/2012 11:22:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

beneficial nematodes emerging from killed insect cadaverUniversity of FloridaBeneficial nematodes eat a root pest from the inside out.University of Florida researchers have discovered a natural compound that helps attract beneficial nematodes to fight root pests, such as citrus root weevil larvae.

The chemical, called pregeijerene, is released by citrus roots when they're attacked by pests, according to a news release.

It then attracts beneficial nematodes, which move in and control the root pests.

The discovery was made by a group led by Lukasz Stelinski, an assistant professor of entomology and nematology, at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred.

Not only does the compound help protect citrus roots, but it also is effective on blueberry roots and possibly those of other crops.

When the chemical was applied to soil in citrus groves, the researchers found three times greater control of root weevil larvae than the untreated check.

Researchers also conducted trials in a New Jersey blueberry field and found two times greater control with the chemical compared with the untreated check.

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