Florida growers may face problems in the future with the introduction of nematodes, or microscopic worms, into the soil.
UF researchers are studying the effects of the root-knot nematodes on crops like hops. Researchers have already found four to five major species that will infect and cause significant diseases to the plants, said Donald Dickson, a UF nematology professor, in an email.
Dickson said it is too early to decide which control methods will be used to manage the nematodes, but researchers expect the use of chemicals like nematicides, used before and after planting, will help prevent spreading.
Dickson said the root-knots are difficult to manage but are similar to other pests, which makes treating them as simple as selecting the right pesticide.
Johan Desaeger, a UF professor of nematology, wrote in an email the nematodes could affect the hops crop, which is used to produce beer, in particular. He said their research works to prevent a mass outbreak of the nematodes, which may affect the beer industry as a whole.
He said nematodes are drawn to hops because the plant is tasty to them, and they can easily access the root system.
Desaeger said hops is a fledgling industry in Florida. Once commercial production becomes a reality, nematode effects will need to be closely monitored, Desaeger said.