AMES, Iowa -- There are numerous plant-parasitic nematodes in the world, but only a handful are responsible for the largest part of an estimated $157 billion in agricultural damage globally every year. Nematodes are small worms that burrow into plant roots and feed off living cells.
Now, Iowa State University researchers have contributed to the release of the annotated genome of one of the most destructive nematodes: Meloidogyne incognita -- the southern root-knot nematode, as reported recently in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
Sequencing the genome is a critical step toward comprehensively understanding how the organism works and may pave the way for research on ways to fight the pest.
"This is considered to be one of, if not the most important plant-parasitic nematode species across the world," said Thomas Baum, professor and chair of plant pathology and head of Iowa State University's contribution to the genome sequence project.
Root-knot nematodes are so important because they can be found almost anywhere in the world on almost any plant, he said. Nematodes are the most abundant animals on earth.
"Many of the nematodes that are really bad pathogens are very specialized on which plant they attack," said Baum. "This nematode has a huge host range. For us nematologists, it is very interesting and challenging to study."
Because the pest is so widespread, many nematologists around the world were eager to help with the project. The lead investigator was Pierre Abad of the Insitut National de Recherche Agronomiquea, a French research group, with help from researchers in Belgium, Holland, Great Britain, Switzerland, and Iowa State University and North Carolina State University in the US.
"Because it is such a worldwide problem, people are eager to contribute," Baum said. "Also, because it is the first plant-parasitic nematode to have its sequence released, people are very excited abou
|Contact: Thomas Baum|
Iowa State University