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Nematodes, Apple Evaluation

Posted by | February 25, 2009

Partnerships Provide Sustainable Pest Solutions

Nematodes are the most numerous multi-cellular animals on earth. As N.A. Cobb, the father of modern nematology, wrote in 1915, “if all the matter in the universe except the nematodes were swept away, our world would still be dimly recognizable, and if, as disembodied spirits, we could then investigate it, we should find its mountains, hills, vales, rivers, lakes, and oceans represented by a film of nematodes.”

Plant-parasitic nematodes cause economic losses to the agricultural industry locally and worldwide. It is estimated that plant-parasitic nematodes are responsible for losses of approximately $80 billion annually. Nematodes also can cause export and quarantine issues with serious economic implications to agriculture.

WSU assistant professor and Extension nematologist Ekaterini Riga and her research team are developing long-term solutions to manage plant-parasitic nematodes that will benefit the agricultural industry as a whole without negatively impacting the environment.

“Only a small percentage of all nematodes are plant parasitic and harmful,” Riga explained. “Most nematodes are considered beneficial to soil and plant health, but their biology and roles are not well understood yet.”

Riga’s team is using naturally produced chemicals from plants and other organisms to control plant- parasitic nematodes. Chemicals produced from Brassica plants, such as mustards, are called biofumigants and are able to control parasitic nematodes with minimal impact on the beneficial free-living nematodes and environment. Brassica-produced biofumigants can reduce plant-parasitic nematodes in a wide range of vegetable and small berry fruit crops, including wine grapes.

“The partnerships WSU has with the wine grape and vegetable industries are vitally important to our program’s efforts,” said Riga. “We are constantly testing new methods to find sustainable pest solutions that will benefit our state’s agricultural economy.”


Plant-parasitic nematodes, it is estimated, cause some $80 billion in crop losses annually.

For more information on nematology at WSU, please visit

For more information on nematodes in general, please visit:

Get Your Crunch On: WSU Evaluates a New Apple from Stemilt

The next time you are in your neighborhood grocery store you many want to look for a new apple with the sporty name Piñata.

The Piñata is produced by Stemilt Growers in Wenatchee, Wash. and features a distinct tropical twist. “We want to expand the market for apples and by doing this get people to eat less junk food,” Stemilt Customer Development Specialist Travis Chin said.

Stemilt recently came to Washington State University to participate in a sensory evaluation to learn how the Piñata compared to other apples.

Stemilt contracted with WSU food science professor Stephanie Clark to run the sensory evaluation in order to eliminate bias. “If we did the sensory evaluation at Stemilt, there could be bias from us conducting our own evaluation,” Chin said.

The sensory evaluation was also beneficial to the university as well. “We do not profit from this or any other sensory evaluation. These studies are performed at cost,” Clark said. “We conduct them as a service to industry and so that students get the practical experience of running a sensory panel which increases the quality of students’ education.”

The Piñata study was one of several Stemilt has conducted at WSU. Stemilt will present the evaluation information to retailers and consumers so they can compare the Piñata with other apples they are familiar with.

Currently, Piñata is available seasonally from Jan. 1 to mid June in the United States. The new apple is also available in Europe where it is marketed as Pinova.

–Mitch Sieber, Marketing and News intern

Stemilt Customer Development Specialist Travis Chin Photo by Mitch Sieber