Hops and Root-Knot Nematodes

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By Jaci Schreckengost

As interest in hops as a southeastern crop grows, researchers are taking a look at the best varieties for growers and how to prevent certain problems.

Johan Desaeger, an assistant professor of entomology and nematology at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center (GCREC), said demand has continued to increase for hops. The GCREC is part of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Desaeger said GCREC researchers have been testing various cultivars of hops in the field. Since hops is not a crop typically grown in the Southeast, he said it is important that growers know which varieties will provide them with the most success.

During the early stages of research, Desaeger noticed some of the crops appeared unhealthy and growth looked incomplete. Upon further observation, he found these crops were infested with root-knot nematodes. “Root-knot nematode is the most important nematode in Florida,” he said.

According to Desaeger, root-knot nematodes typically cause galls, or knots, on the roots of the crop they infest.

Researchers began observing different hops cultivars to see if there was any level of resistance to the nematodes. Desaeger said there was “quite a bit of difference among the cultivars” and that more resistant cultivars appeared to be fully grown and had less damage from the nematodes.

“The hops project is basically to … see if we can find any resistant or tolerant cultivars to root-knot nematode that would be more [adaptable] to Florida conditions,” Desaeger concluded.

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