Main research question/goal
How can we reliably distinguish and identify different types of Heterodera cyst nematodes? How about the biology (population dynamics, virulence ...) of each species? The cereal cyst nematodes Heterodera avenae, H. latipons and H. filipjevi cause large yield losses in countries with hot and dry climates worldwide. In temperate regions, Heterodera species are a particular problem in beet (H. schachtii), but also in vegetables. Cultural practices to control these nematodes (rotation, resistant varieties) depend largely on the cyst species present.
We contribute to surveys in the cereal growing regions of Morocco, Syria and Turkey. We develop robust and reliable molecular identification techniques based on qPCR that allow both detection and quantification. We screen new varieties and lines of wheat for resistance to Heterodera avenae and H. latipons, but also against Pratylenchus penetrans, the root-lesion nematode, of which we want to study the interaction with Heterodera. In addition, we evaluate and optimize existing identification techniques for Heterodera species in our region. We broaden our skills for detection and identification of H. schachtii, H. betae and other Heterodera species by following their distribution and presence through samples provided by the plant industry.
Within the framework of international cooperation the study of the prevalence and biology of cereal cysts is a great way to learn about this nematode group and to gather knowledge and pass it on to the countries where these nematodes cause major yield losses. The molecular detection techniques allow rapid detection and identification. They contribute to the awareness that cysts cause yield losses. This also applies to the Flemish beet industry, where about 60% of the area is infested with H. schachtii. Resistant varieties are a very good control measure for cyst populations in the field.