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Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
SC Circular 402
in Home Lawns
by D.W. Dickson
Florida Cooperative Extension Service
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida, Gainesville
Circular 402 F C C E 5 F AS ( 6y //
Nematode Control in Home Lawns
D. W. Dickson*
Nematodes are one of the major pest problems of lawns in Florida.
They occur throughout the state, attacking all the different turf-
grasses commonly grown. These tiny pests which are hidden from
view destroy grass roots, causing a slow decline. While control is
possible, there presently isn't any method of eliminating them. When
nematodes reach a problem level a satisfactory lawn often cannot be
maintained unless control measures are used.
How to Recognize Nematode Damage in Home Lawns
Symptoms of nematode damage vary depending on the kind and
number of nematodes present and the type of turfgrass involved.
Symptom expression also depends on other factors such as stress
caused by drought or fertility imbalance. Under conditions of
stress nematode damage will generally be more severe, whereas under
more favorable growing conditions the growth of the grass may tem-
Two steps should be followed in diagnosing a nematode problem.
First, observe the above-ground symptoms. Nematodes severely affect
plant root systems and interfere with the uptake of water and nu-
trients. The grass may appear to be suffering from a lack of moisture
and fertilizer, even when they are adequately available. Thus stunting,
yellowing, loss of vigor, general decline or fading out, weed encroach-
ment and rapid wilting are typical above-ground symptoms.
Distribution is an important clue to nematode damage. Nematode
injury is rarely uniform. Damaged areas will generally be scattered,
with the affected areas gradually increasing in size. These areas will
decline rapidly under periods of stress.
Secondly, root systems should be carefully examined. Roots af-
fected by nematodes appear shriveled, dark in color and stunted.
Practically all the roots will be in the top one to two inches of soil.
Usually there is an absence of young, white fibrous feeder roots.
Obviously, in diagnosing a nematode problem in a home lawn one
should attempt to rule out the involvement of insect or disease pests,
or other conditions such as drought injury or general neglect that
might affect the turfgrass in a similar manner. It is not unusual for
more than one factor to be involved in causing a decline in lawns.
* Associate Professor (Nematologist), Department of Entomology & Nematology, Institute of Food
and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611.
Nematodes Which Attack Turfgrasses
Nematodes that attack turfgrasses are tiny, eelworm-shaped ani-
mals that inhabit the soil. The types that attack grasses must feed
on the grass roots in order to complete their life cycle. Although
there is a long list of nematodes recognized as pathogens of turf-
grasses, only a few cause most of the damage. Some of the more im-
portant types are discussed below.
Sting Nematode (Belonolaimus longicaudatus)
This nematode is the most destructive nematode pest of turfgrasses
in Florida. It is found in the sandy soils throughout the state. The sting
nematode feeds on roots from the outside, puncturing root cells to
obtain plant food. The results are death and destruction of these root
cells, but more importantly the feeding process prevents further root
growth, resulting in a much abbreviated and devitalized root system.
This nematode affects all the turfgrasses commonly grown in Florida.
It is considered damaging at light infestation levels. Control with
nematicides is relatively easy and is essential for the maintenance
of quality turf.
Lance Nematode (Hoplolaimus galeatus)
This nematode is widely distributed and when present in large
numbers it is very damaging to turfgrasses. It feeds on plant roots
both externally and internally causing the root system to be greatly
stunted. The parasite attacks all of the major grasses causing poor
turf response under certain conditions.
Stubby-root & Awl Nematodes (Trichodorus spp., & Dolichodorus
These nematodes occur less frequently on turfgrasses than other
nematodes, but when present in large numbers, they can cause severe
damage. They attack all the commonly grown turfgrasses and feed in
much the same manner as sting nematodes.
The awl nematode is frequently found on turfgrasses on waterfront
properties and in areas which are moist to wet. There is some evidence
which indicates this nematode is brought in from wet soils around
ponds, lakes, or hammock areas.
Ring Nematodes (Criconemoides spp.)
These nematodes are found in a very high percentage of home
lawns. Present data show that they are a major problem only on centi-
pedegrasses at heavy infestation levels. Very large numbers congre-
gate and feed externally on roots, causing the plants to wilt readily.
Centipedegrasses weakened by nematodes appear to be very sus-
ceptible to winter injury, drought and other adverse conditions.
Root-knot Nematodes (Meloidogyne spp.)
Bermudagrasses frequently are found parasitized with large num-
bers of these nematodes. In cases of moderate to heavy infestation
levels, damage can be severe. Females produce eggs in masses which
may contain up to 500 eggs. These eggs hatch over a period of time,
providing a continuous supply of larvae.
St. Augustinegrass Cyst Nematode (Heterodera leuceilyma)
This nematode, as its name indicates, is a pathogen of St. Augustine-
grasses. Females retain eggs within their bodies, and upon death,
their body becomes a tough, leathery-like cyst containing about 300
to 500 eggs. The eggs hatch over a period of time, thus providing a
continuous supply of larvae. Some eggs in the cyst may persist several
years before hatching. Damage can be severe and the symptoms are
similar to those caused by chinch bugs. This type of nematode is very
difficult to control effectively with nematicides. In cases where St.
Augustinegrasses are severely damaged, it may be advisable to replant
with another type of turfgrass.
This pest is limited in its distribution in Florida. It is found most
frequently in St. Augustinegrass lawns along the lower east coast.
It also occurs in several locations in central and south Florida.
Several other nematode parasites are found in turfgrasses. The
most abundant of these are the sheath and sheathoid nematodes. These
two nematodes are not known to be highly pathogenic to grasses.
Apparently they are highly specialized parasites and even though they
reach very large numbers, little damage is inflicted on the host plant.
Spiral, root-lesion, stunt and dagger nematodes are found infre-
quently; however, when present in large numbers, they are considered
harmful to grasses.
Of course, as one would expect, seldom is only one type of nematode
found affecting turfgrasses in one planting. Generally two or more
types are found in every lawn. Although little is known concerning
interactions of these pests on different turfgrasses limited research
indicates certain combinations are very damaging.
Control of Turf Nematodes
At present the most reliable means of controlling nematode pests
of turfgrasses in home lawns is through proper application of nemati-
cidal chemicals. Turfgrasses resistant to nematodes are not known,
but bahiagrasses appear to be tolerant to several types of nematodes.
However, this grass is frequently damaged by sting and root-knot
Two nematicides are suggested for use on home lawns:
1. Dibromochloropropane (DBCP, FumazoneR, Nemagon )-.Fuma-
zone can be applied to home lawns by professional pest control
operators only, whereas Nemagon can be applied both by profes-
sional applicators and homeowners. These materials are prepared as
a water emulsion and applied as a surface drench. If properly applied,
they are highly effective against most nematode parasites of turf;
namely sting, lance, ring, awl, stubby-root, spiral, sheath, and
DBCP is available in small quantities for home owner use as
Nemagon 75 R, NemagonR, NemagonR Liquid, Nemagon 70REC, and
other named products. A rate of 86 pounds per acre of actual DBCP
(active ingredient) is recommended (Tables 1 and 2).
2. SarolexR-. This material is a liquid nematicide formulation of the
organic phosphate insecticide diazinon. It is available for pro-
fessional or homeowner application. When applied properly as a
surface drench, it is effective in providing control of sting and root-
knot nematodes. It is less effective in controlling ring, sheath, or
sheathoid nematodes. A rate of 54 pounds per acre active ingredi-
ent of Sarolex is recommended (Tables 1 and 2).
Surface Applications of DBCP & Sarolex Nematicides
Nematicides may be applied on turf by surface application. In ad-
dition, the soil fumigants Fumazone or Nemagon may also be applied
by soil injection.
Condition prior to treatment-. The soil should be uniformly moist in
the upper 8-12 inches one to two weeks prior to treatment. DO NOT
treat during periods of drought or when soil is compacted, dry or ex-
tremely wet. If possible, treat only during a period with good rainfall.
The liquid soil fumigants Fumazone or Nemagon should be applied
when the soil temperature is 60-800 F at a 3-inch depth.
Preparation of Turf-. Effective nematode control is often difficult
to achieve in turf with heavy thatch. Certain grasses such as bermuda-
grasses and zoysiagrasses should be prepared prior to treatment by
close mowing (scalped) or, if practical, verticutting to remove heavy
thatch. Remove clippings after mowing or verticutting. Verticutting
of centipedegrasses, St. Augustinegrasses, and bahiagrasses is not
recommended; however, these grasses should be mowed close (do
not scalp below runners). Aeration of the turf prior to treatment
will also allow better penetration of the nematicide into the root zone.
Close mowing and verticutting severely shock turfgrasses thus it
is necessary to water and fertilize properly for a few weeks until the
grass fully recovers.
Method of application-. The liquid nematicides, Fumazone, Nemagon
or Sarolex can be applied to the surface by hose-on sprayers, spray
tanks, sprinkler cans or other similar methods. Most pest control
operators are equipped for treating home lawns for nematodes.
The area to be treated should be marked off into sections 500 to
1000 sq. ft. in size. If a large area is to be treated with Fumazone or
Nemagon by spray tank application they should be applied in at least
50 gallons of water per 1000 sq. ft. of area, followed by another 50
gallons of water to wash the chemical down into the soil.
Irrigate immediately with 1/2 to 1 inch of water to wash the nema-
ticide from the foliage into the soil. Improper application and/or
irrigation may result in foliage burn, inadequate control or both. After
treatment water and fertilize properly for a few weeks to achieve
Soil Injection of DBCP
DBCP may be injected into the root zone of turfgrasses by "Nema-
Jet", tractor mounted chisels or "Fumigun" applicators. Home lawns
and other turfgrasses may be treated with these devices. Injection of
DBCP gives effective control of the major nematode pests of turf-
grasses and provides excellent turf response. Other advantages of soil
injection are increased chemical efficiency, reduced phytotoxicity, long
lasting control and greater safety.
Nema-Jet*.-The "Nema-Jet" apparatus attaches to a high pres-
sure-high volume spray tank which propels the nematicide solution
through high pressure jets into the soil to a depth of several inches.
Tractor-Mounted chisels.-Two different size tractor-mounted pres-
sure or gravity-flow chisel units are available. The first is a large unit
with 12 inch coulter-chisels spaced 10 to 12 inches apart. A smaller
unit using thin-bladed delivery chisels (with or without small coulters)
spaced 6 to 7 inches apart is also being used.
Small | iil -o __
The coulters or chisels slice through the turf penetrating to a depth
of 4 to 5 inches. Flat press wheels or rollers follow behind the chisels
to seal the slits. Professional custom application is available from
several companies in Florida; however, most units are being used
for treating commercial turf at the present time. Commercial units of
the larger coulter-chisel applicators are available for attachment to
many tractor types.
* Mfg. by Soil Fumigants Co., P. O. Box 7801, Orlando, Florida 32804. Patent pending. Sole source
Fumigun*.-A Fumigun, which is a manual mechanical soil appli-
cator, also can be used to inject Fumazone or Nemagon into turf. The
needle is pressed into the turf to a depth of 4 to 6 inches and on 10
to 12 inch centers. The fumigant is released into the soil by applying
downward pressure on the handle.
Soil Injection Using the Fumigun
Table 1. Suggested Rates of DBCP and Sarolex
% active fl. oz/
Nematicide ingredients Gal/Acre 1000 sq. ft.
FUMAZONE 86 E or
NEMAGON 12.1 EC ca. 86 7 21
NEMAGON ca. 70 10 29
NEMAGON ca. 60 12 35
NEMAGON ca. 50 14 41
SAROLEX 47 13.5 39
1 The percent active ingredient is only approximated here for convenience. For example, Nemagon
70 EC is usually formulated with 67.86% active ingredient and is listed as ca. 70% above.
Table 2. Amount of Material Needed to Treat Different Size Areas
Gallons of Material Needed
Size of Area to be treated 70% NEMAGON 47% SAROLEX
1/ acre (5,445 sq. ft.) 1.3 1.7
14 acre (10,890 sq. ft.) 2.5 3.4
1/2 acre (21,780 sq.ft.) 5.0 6.8
/% acre (32,670 sq. ft.) 7.5 10.1
1 acre (43,560 sq. ft.) 10.0 13.5
* Mfg. by NAMCO, 765 Landers Ave., P.O. Box 319, Milpitas, California, 95035. Patented sole
General Direction for Soil Injection of DBCP
Treat during the spring, summer or fall when the soil temperature
is 60 to 800F at a 3-inch depth. The soil moisture content should be
maintained at a fairly high level in the upper 8 to 12 inches one to
two weeks prior to treatment. DO NOT TREAT IF SOIL IS COM-
PACT, DRY OR WATER LOGGED. Inject 4-6 inches deep on 6-12
inch centers and seal openings. Use pressure rollers immediately after
application to help seal openings and then apply 1/2 inch of water.
After treatment, water and fertilize properly for a few weeks to
achieve maximum response.
Nematicide formulation active ingredient
FUMAZONE 86 E or
NEMAGON 12.1 EC 3.3 40
NEMAGON 8.6 EC 4.7 40
When to Apply Nematicides
An annual treatment may be necessary for good nematode control
and excellent turf response on most home lawns. If the nematode stress
is severe, it may be necessary to make two applications the first year.
The materials may be successfully applied in the spring, summer, or
fall. Turf response from fall applications of nematicides may not be
obvious immediately; however, the grass responds well the following
THE NEMATICIDES LISTED IN THESE RECOMMENDATIONS
ARE HIGHLY TOXIC TO MAN AND ANIMALS. HANDLE THEM
WITH CARE. ALWAYS READ THE LABEL CAREFULLY AND
FOLLOW ALL PRECAUTIONS BEFORE USING THESE MATERI-
ALS. DO NOT PLACE THESE MATERIALS IN CONTACT WITH
FEED, FOOD OR WATER. STORE THEM IN THEIR ORIGINAL
LABELED CONTAINERS OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN, PETS,
AND LIVESTOCK. DISPOSE OF THE EMPTY CONTAINERS
PROMPTLY AND SAFELY ACCORDING TO DIRECTIONS ON
The information given herein is supplied with the understand-
ing that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the
Florida Cooperative Extension Service is implied.
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Single copies free to residents of Florida. Bulk rates available upon request.
Please submit details on request to Chairman, Editorial Department,
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida,
Gainesville, Florida 32611.
This public document was promulgated at an annual cost of
$896.18, or 41/2 cents each to inform county Extension Agents,
growers, and agencies about plant pests.
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK IN AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS
(Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914)
Cooperative Extension Service, IFAS, University of Florida
and United States Department of Agriculture, Cooperating
Joe N. Busby, Dean