Managing Southern Root-knot Nematode in Kentucky High Tunnels Using Grafted Tomato

Victoria Bajek, Rachel E. Rudolph

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Infection by root-knot nematode (Meloidogyne spp.; RKN) leads to root galling and reduces the host plant’s ability to take up water and nutrients. Protected cropping systems, such as high tunnels, create conducive environments for RKN through increased soil temperatures and more intensive crop production. In Kentucky, high tunnel production has increased in the past 10 years, with tomato being the most cultivated high tunnel crop. This has contributed to a lack of rotation and increased pressure from RKN. Tomato grafting with RKN-resistant rootstock is a nonchemical management strategy that has shown promise in other regions of the United States. The primary objective of this 2-year, two-site study (Knox and Boyle Counties) was to determine whether using grafted resistant rootstock could be a viable management strategy in high tunnels naturally infested with Meloidogyne incognita. The rootstocks included ‘Arnold’, ‘Maxifort’, ‘Shin Cheong Gang’, and ‘Estamino’. ‘Primo Red’ and ‘Cherokee Purple’ were the scions and nongrafted controls in Knox and Boyle Counties, respectively. In 2020 and 2021 in Knox County, three of the four grafted treatments produced at least 38% higher yield than the nongrafted control. Grafted treatments had at least 44% fewer RKN eggs/g of dry root compared with the nongrafted control in both years. In 2021 and 2022 in Boyle County, tomato yield was at least five times greater in all four of the grafted treatments compared with the nongrafted control. In 2021, the nongrafted control had three times more RKN eggs/g dried root compared with three of the four grafted treatments. In 2022 in Boyle County, the nongrafted control had four times more RKN eggs/g of dried root than all grafted treatments. In both years and locations, ‘Arnold’ and ‘Estamino’ treatments had higher yield and lower RKN population densities in soil and roots compared with the nongrafted controls. Utilization of resistant rootstock will help Kentucky growers maintain crop productivity in soils infested with RKN, but should be combined with other management methods for long-term resiliency of the high tunnel system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)704-713
Number of pages10
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American Society for Horticultural Science. All rights reserved.


  • Meloidogyne incognita
  • Solanum lycopersicum
  • host suitability
  • plant-parasite
  • soil microorganism
  • temperature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Horticulture


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