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Global experts share strategies to combat cereal nematodes

International symposium in New Delhi serves to discuss new technologies and management approaches.

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Participants of the 7th International Cereal Nematodes Symposium stand for a group photo at the National Agricultural Science Complex in New Delhi.
Participants of the 7th International Cereal Nematodes Symposium stand for a group photo at the National Agricultural Science Complex in New Delhi.

Fifty delegates from around the globe gathered at the 7th International Cereal Nematode Symposium in New Delhi, India, to discuss the spread of cereal nematodes, strategies to lessen their impact on crops and ways to boost international collaboration on research.

Nematodes, microscopic plant parasites that include the Heterodera species of cereal cyst nematode and the Pratylenchus species of root lesion nematodes, are widespread in wheat production systems throughout West Asia, North Africa, parts of Central Asia, northern India, and China, and pose a grave economic problem for wheat production systems globally.

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry have been working over the last 12 years — in collaboration with the International Center for Agriculture in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), national program partners, and research institutions in Australia and Europe — to understand the importance and distribution of these species of cereal nematodes, as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat (WHEAT).

“Because cereals are the staple food for the majority of the world’s population, cereal nematodes pose an enormous threat to global food security,” said Abdelfattah Dababat, leader of CIMMYT’s Soil Borne Pathogens Program. “The symposium allows scientists from around the world to share their findings, lessons and strategies to combat this threat.”

The symposium, organized by the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat (WHEAT) and hosted by the Division of Nematology at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), was held November 3-6 at New Delhi’s National Agricultural Science Complex.

The conference was inaugurated by Trilochan Mohapatra, director general of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), and Arun Kumar Joshi, CIMMYT regional representative for Asia and country representative for India. It included sessions on the global status and distribution of cereal nematodes, their economic importance and population dynamics, management strategies both with and without using host resistance, the genomes and parasitism genes of cereal nematodes, and the use of molecular tools for cereal nematode research.

Organizers hold copies of the abstract book, released during the symposium.
Organizers hold copies of the abstract book, released during the symposium.

Scientists shared notable global developments, including the following:

  • Scientists from Turkey, Syria, Iran and Israel described the distribution and management status of Heterodera spp. in their region.
  • Hendrika Fourie and other colleagues from North-West University (NWU) discussed the nematode problems in South Africa.
  • Rebecca Zwart and Grant Hollaway, from the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), presented findings on the Pratylenchus menace in wheat in Australia.
  • Uma Rao, a co-organizer of the symposium from IARI, and colleagues, discussed the deployment of molecular tools to manage the problem of the Meloidogyne graminicola nematode in rice-wheat cropping systems.
  • Richard Sikora, from the University of Bonn, Germany, summarized the current challenges in nematology, especially pertaining to wheat and maize, and reiterated the need for new technologies and management approaches for the small- and medium-sized farms of the future. He also highlighted the role of remote sensing in detecting nematode diseases.
  • K. Singh, Joint Director of Research at IARI, gave a formal presentation on molecular breeding of Basmati rice.

Following the symposium, participants observed research work underway at IARI’s Division of Nematology, the largest nematology center in India, and visited the IARI museum.

Symposium supporters include CIMMYT, the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat (WHEAT), the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the Borlaug Institute for South Asia (BISA), the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Turkey’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Corteva, Syngenta, and the Plant Breeders Union of Turkey (BISAB). Previous symposiums have been held in Turkey, Austria, China and Morocco.

Uma Rao, Tushar K. Dutta, Vishal S. Somvanshi and Abdelfattah A. Dababat contributed to this story.