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On the use of cover crops to control nematodes in banana

In recent years, a number of non-chemical, practical measures have been evaluated for controlling banana nematodes through field trials carried out in some Caribbean producing countries. Among these techniques are fallow, alone or combined with crop rotation, use of genotypes with higher degree of resistance/tolerance to Radopholus similis and other migratory forms, and cultivation of cover crops, mostly Compositae, Fabaceae and Poaceae species.

A more detailed study dealing with the comparative efficacy of some cover crops in reducing populations of banana phytonematodes conducted in Martinique by a team of CIRAD researchers has provided producers with interesting bancovresults. After 1.5 years of planting, all the Poaceae (1) and Fabaceae (3) species tested affected the structure and abundance of the soil nematode community, but the highest values of phytonematode population decrease were related with the cultivation of Paspalum notatum (Poaceae). Bottom-up effects on all trophic groups other than phytonematodes were evident with Poaceae cover crop, suggesting a topdown control of phytonematodes by omnivorous nematodes. Conversely, phytonematodes were evidently not suppressed in plots with Fabaceae cover crops (Neonotonia wightii in the photo), probably because they served as good hosts for some plant-feeding nematodes.

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