Effect of Age of Alfalfa Root on Penetration by Pratylenchus penetrans


  • Th. H. A. Olthof


Penetration by all migratory life stages of Pratylenchus penetrans into roots of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L. cv. Du Puits) was inversely proportional to tissue age. Two-day-old tissue in the root hair zone was penetrated twice as much as 10- or 20-day-old sections of the tap root. Age-related differences were also observed in branch roots; these differences were not affected by increasing the number of nematodes from 1 to 10 per inoculation site, nor by increasing the length of the incubation period from 6 to 96 h. Age-related differences were only significant with 3-wk-old plants, not with 2- and 1-wk-old seedlings. Nematodes entered roots at temperatures from 5 to 30 C with maximum entry at 20 C and minimum at 5 C. At all temperatures, except 5 C, penetration into young tissue (2 days) was significantly greater than into medium (10 days) and old (20 days) tissue. Females and third-stage larvae entered the different-aged root sections 122% and 83%, respectively, more than did males. Two-day-old seedlings of the alfalfa cultivars Vernal, Saranac, and Du Puits were penetrated equally by P. penetrans. Perhaps the inverse relationship between penetration and age of root is, in part, responsible for the increasing resistance or tolerance of plants to nematode damage as they grow older. Key words: root-lesion nematode.