Burrowing nematode

Burrowing nematode

Radopholus similis

Common name:

Burrowing nematode

Scientific name:

Radopholus similis

Alternative common names:


Burrowing nematode is a parasite of plants, and it is a pest of many agricultural crops. It is an especially important pest of bananas and citrus, and it can be found on coconut, avocado, coffee, sugarcane, other grasses, and ornamentals. It is a migratory endoparasite of roots, causing lesions that form cankers. Infected plants experience malnutrition.

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?


What is its invasive status in South Africa?

NEMBA category 1b

Where in South Africa is it a problem?


How does it spread?

Nematode dispersion by runoff water.

Why is it a problem?

Is one of the most damaging and widespread nematodes attacking bananas, causing toppling or blackhead disease. The nematode causes a disease condition called toppling or blackhead disease in plants. In bananas they weaken the anchor roots and the plants can fall. The roots also fail to supply the plant with water and nutrients, causing reduced growth and development.

What does it look like?

Description: Adults and juveniles are vermiform in shape. Adults are sexually dimorphic. The male has a poorly developed stylet, a knob-like head, and a sharp, curved spicule enclosed in a sac. The male is 0.05 to 0.06 cm in length, while the female is about 0.055 to 0.088 cm long. The female has a well-developed stylet. Both male and female have long, tapered tails with rounded or indented ends.

Habitat: It completes its life cycle within root tissue.

Breeding: Mature males of burrowing nematode are not infective. As the mature females migrate through root tissue, they lay eggs that are produced through either sexual reproduction with males or by hermaphroditism. Once an egg hatches, the emergent second-stage juvenile can migrate within the root and complete its entire life cycle within the root system, or it can leave the roots in search of another healthy host root.

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