Seeing the unseen: How to scout for turf nematodes

By Lane Tredway, Ph.D., technical services manager for Syngenta

Nematodes are often overlooked as pests in turfgrasses. The above-ground symptoms are extremely variable and are often misdiagnosed as disease or other stresses. If you have areas that are constantly weak or susceptible to stress, nematodes may be a contributing factor.

The first step to diagnosing a nematode problem is to collect and send a soil sample to a laboratory for analysis. It typically costs $20 or less to have a nematode sample analyzed, making it one of the least expensive diagnostic tests that can be done for a golf course. Visit Nematode Knowledge to:

  • watch a step-by-step tutorial with Dr. Billy Crow collecting and shipping soil samples
  • locate laboratories in your state
  • download a sampling guide
  • watch a nematode webinar and earn GCSAA education points
Affected roots may be stunted or necrotic. Collect 15 to 20 samples, avoiding severely damaged areas.

Working with a nematode lab

The nematode lab will extract and count the number of each nematode species per volume of soil. These numbers are then compared to “damage” or “action” thresholds established for each nematode species. If the population is above the threshold, turf is more likely to benefit from a nematicide application. If the population is below the threshold, a nematicide application is less likely to be beneficial.

The phrases “more likely” and “less likely” are used intentionally, as assay results do not necessarily provide a definitive diagnosis. Thresholds are a rough guideline, and how many nematodes your turf can tolerate depends on other factors like growing conditions, management inputs and other stresses. Nematode assay results are often inconclusive, with populations just above or just below the threshold. For instance, results may find a combination of several species that are below threshold, but collectively may be causing damage.

Treating for nematodes

Oftentimes, the best way to definitively diagnose a nematode problem is to apply a nematicide like Divanem® nematicide. The broadcast rate of 12 fl. oz./A on a 28-day interval provides effective nematode prevention or control of low-to-moderate populations. If populations are very high, or if turf damage is already evident, Divanem may also be applied at a spot-treatment rate of 12.2 fl. oz./10,000 ft.2. The spot-treatment rate offers improved control of several nematode species, including sting, root knot, spiral, lance and Anguina, and provides a more rapid turf response when needed.

If it helps to alleviate the problem, then nematodes were a contributing factor. If not, other factors may be limiting turf quality to a greater extent than nematodes. It is crucial to leave an untreated area for a side-by-side comparison of nematode populations, turf quality and root development. Nematode populations fluctuate widely during the season, so it’s impossible to tell how a nematicide influenced the population without an untreated area for comparison.

Managing root diseases in addition to nematodes

Nematode feeding and fungal diseases often occur together — the wounds created by nematodes are prone to infection by a wide variety of fungi. Root diseases like take-all root rot, summer patch and Pythium root rot are often more severe where nematode populations are high. When submitting samples for nematode analysis, it’s also recommended to submit samples to a disease diagnostic lab. If significant disease activity is observed, consider tank mixing Divanem with a fungicide like Briskway®, Velista®, Heritage® Action™ or Posterity® fungicides. These tank mixtures often improve turf quality more quickly, and to a greater extent than Divanem alone, by controlling two factors that are limiting to turf health. Divanem and Heritage Action are sold in a convenient Multipak for added value.

For more information about identifying and controlling nematodes, visit

Always consult the product label for complete use and application information.

All photos are either the property of Syngenta or are used with permission.

© 2024 Syngenta. Important: Always read and follow label instructions. Some products may not be registered for sale or use in all states or counties and/or may have state-specific use requirements. Please check with your state or local extension service to ensure registration and proper use. Divanem is a Restricted Use Pesticide. Action™, Briskway®, Divanem®, GreenCast®, Heritage®, Posterity®, Velista® and the Syngenta logo are trademarks of a Syngenta Group Company.

Stay Ahead of the Game:

Greencast Advisory emails deliver technical insights, product updates and in-season offers straight to your inbox.

Want to receive articles like this in your inbox each month?

Sign-up now to get tips and new product information to stay ahead of the game with Syngenta.

* Indicates required field

Email Subscriptions