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Cranberries in a bog


Microscopic Roundworms Recruited to Fight Cranberry Pests

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Tiny unsegmented worms, called nematodes, kill insects, and when sprayed on agricultural fields represent a natural alternative to insecticides. Here, the translucent white nematodes, Oscheius onirici, can be seen emerging from an insect host. (Shane Foye, D4794-1)

Nematodes with a taste for "insect innards" may offer cranberry growers a natural alternative to fighting hungry crop pests with chemical insecticides. Annually, Americans consume 2.3 pounds of cranberries per person, primarily as juice but also in dried fruit snacks and holiday fare such as cranberry relish. However, the path from cranberry bog to juice bottle (or table) can be a perilous one—no thanks to redheaded flea beetles, Sparganothis fruitworms, and other insect pests.

Severe infestations can force growers to apply costly insecticides. ARS scientists in Madison, WI, developed a biobased pesticide made of insect-killing roundworms called entomopathogenic nematodes that worked just as well.  In tests, spraying the nematodes reduced pest populations by 60 to 70 percent or more.

Read "Microscopic Worms to the Cranberry Rescue" to learn more.