Small grain cereals, such as wheat, barley and oats are considered among the most important food sources. Plant-parasitic nematodes play a considerable role in decreasing cereal yields. The three-major species of cereal cyst nematodes (CCN) Heterodera avenae, H. latipons, and H. filipjevi are distributed worldwide and cause considerable damage. This review provides information regarding the global distribution of these nematode species, yield loss due to CCN, their biology and pathogenic relation to plants, identification and control through agricultural practices, biological agents and resistance breeding. As morphological identification of CCN is difficult and time-consuming, several molecular techniques for the identification of these CCN species have been developed in recent years. The restrictions on the use of nematicides demand for resistance to CCN. Resistance genes in several lines are known and are used in numerous breeding programmes against CCN; pyramiding these resistance genes into high yielding cultivars that could become commercially available for farmers is progressing.