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Meloidogyne ethiopica

Root-knot nematode


Why: In 2003, a tropical root-knot nematode species Meloidogyne ethiopica was found for the first time in a tomato greenhouse in Dornberk, Slovenia. This was also the first record for Europe. M. ethiopica is considered as a damaging species as it can multiply on many different types of plants (dicotyledons and monocotyledons). In addition, it has been shown that this tropical species has the ability to survive outdoors in temperate areas. In 2011, the Panel on Quarantine Nematodes recommended that M. ethiopica should be added to the EPPO Alert List.

Note on Meloidogyne luci: in 2015 studies (multi locus mitochondrial DNA analysis) on 80 populations of Meloidogyne species collected from a wide range of geographical origins and host plants showed that the population from Slovenia, originally identified as M. ethiopica, corresponded in fact to another species Meloidogyne luci. M. luci was described in 2014 as a new species parasitizing vegetables, fruit trees and ornamental plants in Brazil, Iran, Chile, and Guatemala. In Slovenia, the infested tomato crop was destroyed and the nematode was not detected again. The Panel decided to maintain M. ethiopica on the Alert List and add a note about the existence of the new species, M. luci.


Damage on tomato roots made
by M. luci (1st generation)

Courtesy: Dr S. Širca
(Agricultural Institute of Slovenia)

Where: M. ethiopica is a tropical root-knot species which was first described in 1968 in Southern Africa (Tanzania). Considering the recent confusion between M. ethiopica and M. luci, the following geographical distribution is now rather uncertain.
EPPO region: Greece, Turkey. In 2009, M. ethiopica was detected 2 soil samples which had been collected from maize (Zea mays) and kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa) crops near Kavalla, Northern Greece. The situation of this nematode in Greece would need to be further investigated. In 2009, it was also detected in Turkey in 2 tomato greenhouses of the University of Ondokuz Mayıs (Samsun) and in several commercial cucumber greenhouses in Çarşamba district (Samsun province).
Africa: Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe.
South America: Brazil (Distrito Federal, Rio Grande do Sul, Sao Paulo), Chile (detected in the Central Valley from Copiapo (north of Santiago) to Talca).

On which plants: M. ethiopica is a polyphagous pest that is able to parasitize at least 80 different host plants, including many economically important crops. In Africa and South America, M. ethiopica has been observed on many different cultivated species such as: Actinidia deliciosa (kiwi), Agave sisalana (sisal), Beta vulgaris (beetroot), Brassica oleracea (cabbages), Capsicum frutescens (hot pepper), Citrullus lanatus (watermelon), Cucurbita spp., Ensete ventricosum (ensete), Glycine max (soybean), Lactuca sativa (lettuce), Lycopersicon esculentum (tomato), Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco), Phaseolus vulgaris (common bean), Polymnia sonchifolia (yacon), Solanum tuberosum (potato), Vicia faba (faba bean), Vigna unguiculata (cowpea), Vitis vinifera (grapevine), as well as on trees(Acacia mearnsii) and weeds(Ageratum conyzoides, Datura stramonium, Solanum nigrum). Host range experiments have also showed that M. ethiopica can multiply on a large number of cultivated plants of economic importance, for example: Allium cepa (onion), Apium graveolens (celery), Cucumis sativus (cucumber), Daucus carota (carrot), Fagopyrum esculentum (buckwheat), Helianthus annuus (sunflower), Hordeum vulgare (barley), Medicago sativa (lucerne), Oryza sativa (rice), Pisum sativum (pea), Prunus persica (peach), Solanum melongena (aubergine), Spinacia oleracea (spinach), Zea mays (maize).

Damage on tomato roots at the end of the production season
Courtesy: Dr S. Širca (Agricultural Institute of Slovenia)
Wilting on tomato plants caused by M. luci
Courtesy: Dr S. Širca (Agricultural Institute of Slovenia)

Damage: As is the case with other root-knot nematodes, M. ethiopica damages plants by affecting the development of their root system which is distorted by small and large multiple galls and devoid of fine roots. Affected plants can also show above ground symptoms such as stunting and wilting. Pot experiments carried out on tomatoes demonstrated that the surface area of fine roots was reduced by 2.1-fold and 3.2-fold when plants were infested with low and high numbers of M. ethiopica, respectively. M. ethiopica is considered to be particularly aggressive to several crops (e.g. beans, cucumber, tomatoes) where it causes very large galls and reproduces intensively (on these plants, its reproduction factor can reach more than 100). In Brazil and Chile, M. ethiopica is considered as a damaging species on kiwi and grapevine, as infestations lead to a reduction of plant growth, fruit size and quality. However, data is lacking on the extent of damage and the economic impact this nematode may cause on its different host plants. Data is also generally lacking on its biology.

Galls of M. ethiopica on grapevine
Courtesy: Dr RMDG Carneiro (Embrapa, BR)
Damage on yacon (Polymia sonchifolia) tubers
(left: healthy - right: infested)
Courtesy: Dr RMDG Carneiro (Embrapa, BR)

Transmission: As a root-knot nematode species, M. ethiopica can easily be transmitted with soil and plant root material. In Chile, it is suspected that movements of contaminated grapevine nursery stock have probably resulted in serious infestations in various vineyards. In Brazil, it is also suggested that this nematode was introduced in 1989 to Rio Grando Sul on kiwi seedlings imported from Curicó (Chile), and that the pest was then moved to Distrito Federal on infested bulbs of Polymnia sonchifolia (yacón or Peruvian ground apple) from Rio Grande do Sul.

Pathway: Infested soil and growing media, plants for planting, bulbs and tubers from countries where M. ethiopica occurs are the most probable pathways to introduce this pest into the EPPO region. Soil attached to machinery, tools, footwear, or plant products is also another possible pathway.

Possible risks: M. ethiopica is a polyphagous species and many of its host plants are of economic importance to the EPPO region as they are cultivated as arable, vegetable, ornamental or fruit crops. The recent incursion of this pest in Slovenia clearly demonstrated that it has the potential to enter the region, although its pathway of introduction remains unknown. Recent studies have showed that, despite its tropical origin, M. ethiopica has the potential to survive outdoors under a continental climate (hot summers and cold winters) even in areas where soil temperatures fall below zero during winter, as well as under a sub-Mediterranean climate (hot summers and mild winters). This indicates that M. ethiopica could establish and spread in the southern and central parts of the EPPO region. In addition, M. ethiopica could survive under glasshouse conditions across the region. Once root-knot nematodes have been introduced, it is in general difficult to control or eradicate them. Based on morphological characteristics, M. ethiopica can be confused with M. incognita, and thus be easily overlooked. However, it can be noted that characteristic esterase isozyme patterns have been described for M. ethiopica to provide more reliable identification. Considering the wide host range of this species and its probable ability to survive in many parts of the EPPO region, it seems desirable to avoid its introduction.

Acknowledgements: Warm thanks are due to Dr S. Širca (Agricultural Institute of Slovenia) who has prepared most of this mini datasheet in 2011.

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EPPO RS 2011/004, 2013/006, 2014/007, 2016/212

Panel review date 2017-03
Entry date 2011-01


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