A study of the systematics and implications of the presence of the testa nematode, Aphelenchoides arachidis Bos, 1977 in South Africa
Lesufi, Madimane Moses
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An introduction to nematode systematics is provided which deals broadly with the history of the classification of nematodes, the controversial usage of the Phylum names Nemata Cobb, 1919 and Nematoda (Rudolphi, 1808) Lankester, 1877 and the reason why the name Nematoda was used in the present study. The classification, diagnosis and bionomics of the genus Aphelenchoides Fischer, 1894, the genus to which A. arachidis Bos, 1977 belongs is discussed. The section on bionomics is included to capture the astounding ability of this group of organisms to adapt to different trophic levels, a concept that is used to attempt an explanation for the ability of a supposedly African nematode, A. arachidis, to infest an alien crop species (groundnut). The ability of Aphelenchoides spp. to adapt to different host plant species is discussed, as well as the ability of the groundnut plant to mature its pods underground, a characteristic that predisposes these plants to a host of pathogens. The damage caused by two of the most important endoparasitic nematode species on groundnut, A. arachidis and Ditylenchus africanus Wendt, Swart, Vrain & Webster, 1995 were compared with each other. The South African population of A. arachidis was found predominantly in the shells of groundnut, whereas they were found in the shells, roots, hypocotyls and testas of the groundnut plants in Nigeria. The present study showed that A. arachidis and D. africanus occur together in groundnut in South Africa with D. africanus usually being the dominant species. In only one instance, at Bullhill (Vaalharts Irrigation Scheme, Northern Cape), the groundnut shells and testas were infested by A. arachidis alone. The importance of plant quarantine in South Africa is dealt with and the aims and principles of quarantine, as well as the different guidelines that have to be adhered to when deciding on the quarantine status of an organism are explained. Descriptions are provided of the methods used to prepare specimens for viewing with the light microscope (LM) and the scanning electron microscope (SEM), as well as the procedures of the molecular study. A morphological and morphometrical description of A. arachidis specimens from South Africa, as well as a comparison with specimens from Nigeria was done. Differences between the South African and Nigerian populations included, respectively, a lower b-value (7 - 11 vs 10 - 18), more lateral lines (2 - 4 vs 2), a slightly shorter stylet (8-10 µm vs 10 - 12 µm) and a longer length of the post-uterine sac as a percentage of the distance from vulva to anus (41 - 96 % vs ± 50 %). Scanning electron micrographs of this species are presented for the first time and shows the morphology of the lip region and lateral lines. Since both A. arachidis and A. blastophthorus were detected in the pods, a study was done to evaluate a PCR-based diagnostic method for the identification of these species and to compare the results with those reported in literature. Restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs) in the rDNA fragment were used to compare and differentiate between nematode species. The differences encountered within the South African population (morphological, morphometrical and molecular) warrant a study of more specimens from more localities. Through this it could be ascertained whether the South African population is a subspecies of A. arachidis or if this species just differs widely between localities. Future research should focus on a survey of the groundnut producing areas in South Africa to determine the distribution and economic impact of A. arachidis. The incidence of A. arachidis on other agricultural crops, especially those used in rotation with groundnut, also needs to be determined. The next issue to address is what enables a supposedly endemic species to Africa, A. arachidis, to parasitize an alien plant species (groundnut) from South America. Screening of the endemic bean family (Fabaceae) in Africa for the presence of A. arachidis, could hold the answer to this question.