PLANT-PARASITIC NEMATODES ASSOCIATED WITH EIGHT BANANA CULTIVARS IN SOUTHERN FLORIDA
Niche and specialty banana cultivation provides growers in southern Florida with economic opportunities that do not directly compete with foreign imports. These specialty bananas include dessert, cooking, and plantain types. Specific cultivars often lack foundational agronomic information that could guide the adoption of higher quality types. One major concern for banana growers in southern Florida is damage caused by plant-pathogenic nematodes. Nematodes limit the long-term economic return of some cultivars by reducing plant health until plants become unproductive. While some cultural and chemical methods exist for reducing pathogenic nematode populations, these can be expensive, ineffective, or cause environmental concerns. Understanding the prevalence of nematodes in southern Florida and their association with the roots of specific banana cultivars can help establish grower recommendations when starting new plantings. Seven nematode genera (Helicotylenchus, Meloidogyne, Pratylenchus, Rotylenchulus, Trichodorus, Tylenchorhynchus, and Xiphinema) were identified in histosol and limestone soil types in long-term banana plantings in southern Florida. Of these, only Helicotylenchus (0-4,704/100 g roots), Meloidogyne (0-365/100 g roots), and Pratylenchus (0-604/100 g roots) were consistently abundant over two sampling dates and for both soil types. Nematodes were isolated from the roots of all eight banana cultivars with ‘Giant Plantain’, ‘Pisang Raja’, and ‘Williams’ showing a trend towards fewer total isolated nematodes. This is the first report of nematodes associated with a diverse banana accessions in both histosol and limestone sites in southern Florida.