Sweet potato growers across the state recently gathered in Pittsboro to discuss a potentially devastating pest and decide on the action the group needed to take to prevent the Guava Root Knot Nematode from entering Mississippi.
Myrl Sistrunk, an employee with the Louisiana State University AgCenter and a member of the team working to contain the first report of the Guava Root Knot Nematode in Louisiana, kicked off the meeting with an overview of the Guava Root Knot Nematode.
“This was discovered in Florida first,” Sistrunk said. “Later, it appeared in North Carolina. And from what we’ve been able to find out from North Carolina, it wasn’t in sweet potatoes. It was in soybeans. One of our growers bought some (sweet potato) seed from North Carolina. And it was in them.”
The Guava Root Knot Nematode is an invasive pest usually found in tropical areas of the world, including Central and South America, Africa and Asia. The pest attacks the roots of sweet potatoes, creating large galls or knots. The nematode has an extremely high rate of reproduction over a short period of time.
The nematode has the ability to reproduce and damage other crops as well, even those with resistance against Southern root-knot nematode. In addition to sweet potatoes, some of the crops grown in Mississippi that would be susceptible to the nematode are tomatoes, peanuts, cotton and soybeans.
“If it were me, I would be cautions of this,” Sistrunk said. “It has the ability to cause severe damage to plants and significantly reduce yields.”
Michael Ledlow, Mississippi Bureau of Plant Industry Director, agreed with Sistrunk while giving an overview of the process the Bureau of Plant Industries Board of Directors would undergo if they were to consider imposing a statewide quarantine from the Guava Root Knot Nematode.
“If we’re going to do something, we need to do it quick,” Ledlow said.
Following the informational portion of the meeting, Samantha Laird, Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Sweet Potato Commodity Coordinator, and Jamie Earp, Mississippi Sweet Potato Council President, led a group discussion to gather grower feedback.
“The main goal of this meeting is to get feedback from you growers as an industry on where you want to be,” Laird said. “Farm Bureau does not currently have policy on the Guava Root Knot Nematode.”
Members in attendance concluded the meeting with the decision that some type of Farm Bureau policy needed to be developed and sent through the policy development process. The Sweet Potato Commodity Policy Sub-committee met after the meeting to develop policy that was presented at the resolutions meeting in November.