Plant nematodes are major pathogens of plants, interacting with other pathogenic micro-organisms in disease complexes, and in some instances constituting the main cause of damage to plants. Resulting losses are experienced as reduced yields, downgrading and unmarketability of produce, and restrictions on local and international trade in plants and plant products. ​ ​

Plant nematode damage on a putting green

Heterodera schachtii damage on cabbage

Global crop losses due to nematode parasitism is in the order of US$ 78 billion annually. In South Africa, the estimated annual loss in yield caused by plant nematodes to cereal, vegetable and fruit crops amount to about 14 %. The integration of resource poor farmers with commercial agriculture will see an increase in the kinds of crops planted, and possibly new nematode related growth problems involving known and undescribed species. These plant pathogens can only be reliably managed if they are accurately identified.

Root-knot damage on potato

Cyst nematode damage
Galls caused by an Anquina sp.

The following nematode research projects are presently in progress in the Nematology Unit:

  • A morphological and morphometrical study combined with molecular analysis of Heteroderidae (A. Swart and, R. Knoetze [Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries]).

  • Research on subterranean and caverniculous nematodes (A. Swart and G du Preez [North West University]).

  • A study of the Trichodoridae found in fynbos and indigenous forests (M. Marais, in collaboration with W. Decraemer [Koninklijk Belgisch Instituut voor Natuurwetenschappen - Belgium]).

  • A study of the biosystematics of the families Dolichodoridae and Belonolaimidae of the Western and Northern Cape provinces (M. Marais).

  • A study of the Heteroderidae associated with carrot production (A. Shubane, A. Swart and M. Truter).

  • The nematode fauna of the Telerion Nature Reserve (C. Girgan).

  • A study of the biosystematics of the genus Helicotylenchus in South Africa (M. Marais).

  • A study of the biosystematics of the superfamily Criconematoidea in South Africa and USA (E. van den Berg). 

Dr Antoinette Swart; E-mail:;  Campus: Biosystematics Building, ARC-Roodeplaat campus, Roodeplaat, Pretoria.