Courtesy Agricultural Research ServiceAs viewed under a microscrope, a juvenile pale cyst nematode (right) emerges from an egg.Pacific Northwest researchers want to harness naturally occurring chemicals in potatoes to try to foil the pale cyst nematode.
The chemicals, known as egg-hatching factors, stimulate hatching of nematode eggs, according to a news release.
The research led by Roy Navarre, a geneticist with the Agricultural Research Service based in Prosser, Wash., is exploring using the chemicals to trick the eggs into hatching when no potato plants are present.
Without food, the juveniles will starve and reproduction will not occur.
His work is part of a larger control effort among state universities and other federal and state department of agriculture.
The pale cyst nematode, known scientifically as Globodera pallida, is native to Europe.
The nematode burrows into potato roots to feed, stunting growth and causing wilted leaves and other problems that eventually kill the plant.
Severe infestations can reduce tuber yields by up to 80 percent, according to the release.
It was first detected in the United States in 2006, when it was found in eastern Idaho.
Since then, it has been confirmed in 17 fields representing 1,916 ares in Bingham and Bonneville counties.
Although its distribution is limited, it's presence has affected export markets and prompted regulatory restrictions.