Parasitic nematodes are small, microscopic, thread-like animals that utilize a stylet to puncture and feed from plant cells. In turfgrass, these nematodes are root parasites. Nematodes are important turf pests, particularly in sandy native soils and coastal regions, but also in artificial, sand-based root zone mixes on putting greens or athletic fields.

These types of nematodes are not be confused with beneficial nematodes that are used to attack harmful pests that live a portion of their life underground, such as grubs.

Depending on the particular species of nematode and the numbers found in the soil, nematodes are capable of contributing heavily to the decline of turfgrass. However, many times weak turf is blamed on nematodes when poor cultural practices, fungi, harmful insects, nutrient problems, soil compaction, poor drainage, or other environmental problems may be the more serious factor leading to the decline. All of these other stresses can also make nematode damage worse. Therefore, correct diagnosis is important to adequately address the problem and determine if the use of a nematicide is warranted.

A combination or integrated approach leads to the best success. Improve Turf Management Practices. Most grasses can withstand moderate numbers of most kinds of nematodes.

  • Deep, infrequent watering's encourage deeper rooting of the turf, allowing grass to obtain more water and nutrients than a turf having a short root system due to shallow, daily watering's.

  • Avoid excess nitrogen fertilization, as this encourages lush, succulent roots conducive to nematode population buildups.

  • Avoid stresses to turf such as mowing too short. Alleviate compacted soils and correct any nutrient deficiencies.

  • Plant a different grass. Planting another grass type may be a choice if the new grass provides acceptable quality and is adapted to the site. Sometimes nematodes are attacking a particular grass and damage is severe because it is not adapted to the site. However no variety of any turfgrass is known to have true resistance to all nematodes.

Using proper turf management practices and best adapted turf species is a more practical approach than simply switching varieties.