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  • Author or Editor: Victoria Bajek x
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Infection by root-knot nematode (Meloidogyne spp.; RKN) leads to root galling and reduces the host plant’s ability to take up water and nutrients. Protected cropping systems, such as high tunnels, create conducive environments for RKN through increased soil temperatures and more intensive crop production. In Kentucky, high tunnel production has increased in the past 10 years, with tomato being the most cultivated high tunnel crop. This has contributed to a lack of rotation and increased pressure from RKN. Tomato grafting with RKN-resistant rootstock is a nonchemical management strategy that has shown promise in other regions of the United States. The primary objective of this 2-year, two-site study (Knox and Boyle Counties) was to determine whether using grafted resistant rootstock could be a viable management strategy in high tunnels naturally infested with Meloidogyne incognita. The rootstocks included ‘Arnold’, ‘Maxifort’, ‘Shin Cheong Gang’, and ‘Estamino’. ‘Primo Red’ and ‘Cherokee Purple’ were the scions and nongrafted controls in Knox and Boyle Counties, respectively. In 2020 and 2021 in Knox County, three of the four grafted treatments produced at least 38% higher yield than the nongrafted control. Grafted treatments had at least 44% fewer RKN eggs/g of dry root compared with the nongrafted control in both years. In 2021 and 2022 in Boyle County, tomato yield was at least five times greater in all four of the grafted treatments compared with the nongrafted control. In 2021, the nongrafted control had three times more RKN eggs/g dried root compared with three of the four grafted treatments. In 2022 in Boyle County, the nongrafted control had four times more RKN eggs/g of dried root than all grafted treatments. In both years and locations, ‘Arnold’ and ‘Estamino’ treatments had higher yield and lower RKN population densities in soil and roots compared with the nongrafted controls. Utilization of resistant rootstock will help Kentucky growers maintain crop productivity in soils infested with RKN, but should be combined with other management methods for long-term resiliency of the high tunnel system.

Open Access

High tunnel production has increased in the past 10 years in Kentucky with more than 1500 high tunnels constructed across the state. Tomato is the most popular and most valuable high tunnel crop per square foot. This has contributed to a lack of rotation and increased pressure from root-knot nematodes (RKN; Meloidogyne spp.). Infection by RKN leads to root galling and reduces the host plant’s ability to take up water and nutrients. Sustainable strategies are needed to manage increasing RKN populations for long-term health of high tunnel soils. Soil solarization is a nonchemical management strategy that has shown promise in other regions and in open field systems. Because tunnels are primarily used to produce high-value crops and are often used for season extension, solarizing during the off-season would be the most beneficial for growers because solarizing would require taking the tunnel out of production. The primary objective of this study was to determine whether springtime soil solarization in Kentucky high tunnels followed by use of resistant tomato cultivars is a viable and effective management strategy for RKN populations. Soil solarization was performed in two commercial high tunnels naturally infested with southern RKN (Meloidogyne incognita) for 2, 4, and 6 weeks and compared with a nonsolarized control. Soil temperatures reached during solarization were assessed at 7.6-, 15.2-, and 22.8-cm soil depth. After solarization, tomato was transplanted, including ‘Cherokee Carbon’ grafted onto RKN-resistant rootstocks ‘Fortamino’ and ‘Estamino’, RKN-resistant nongrafted ‘Caimon’, and susceptible ‘Cherokee Carbon’ as the control. The highest soil temperature achieved was 50 °C during 6 weeks of solarization at 7.6-cm soil depth compared with 38 °C reached in nonsolarized soil. Soil population densities of RKN increased each month after solarization and were generally lower after solarization with resistant tomato cultivars. The interaction of soil solarization and tomato cultivars was significant with respect to RKN densities in soil and roots. The mean RKN soil and root population densities in the nonsolarized, nonresistant treatment combination was significantly greater compared with all other treatments (P < 0.0001). Population densities of RKN were significantly higher in the nonsolarized control compared with solarized treatments (P = 0.0002). Nongrafted ‘Cherokee Carbon’ had significantly more RKN in surrounding soil compared with all other tomato treatments. Tomato yield was unaffected by soil solarization, but there were significant differences based on tomato cultivars alone; nongrafted ‘Cherokee Carbon’ yielded less than the resistant ‘Caimon’. Together, solarization and resistant cultivars reduced RKN population densities in soil and roots, which can provide growers with a nonchemical approach for long-term RKN management and high tunnel resiliency.

Open Access