EPPO Alert List – Meloidogyne ethiopica and Meloidogyne luci

Root-knot nematodes




In 2003, a tropical root-knot nematode species, initially identified as ‘Meloidogyne ethiopica’ was found for the first time in a tomato greenhouse in Slovenia. As M. ethiopica is a polyphagous species which can multiply on many different types of plants (dicotyledons and monocotyledons), it was added in 2011 to the EPPO Alert List. In 2014, a morphologically similar species, M. luci, was described. In 2015 and 2017, molecular studies on populations of Meloidogyne species collected from a wide range of geographical origins and host plants showed that the populations found in the EPPO region and originally identified as M. ethiopica, corresponded in fact to M. luci. As both M. ethiopica and M. luci can damage a large number of economically important crops, the EPPO Secretariat decided that both M. ethiopica and M. luci should be included in the EPPO Alert List.


M. ethiopica is a tropical root-knot species which was first described in 1968 in Southern Africa (Tanzania). Considering the recent confusion between M. ethiopica and M. luci, the geographical distribution is now rather uncertain.
EPPO region: absent (all populations of ‘M. ethiopica’ reported from Italy, Greece, Slovenia, and Türkiye correspond to M. luci).
Africa: Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe.
South America: Brazil (Distrito Federal, Minas Gerais, Parana, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Sao Paulo), Chile (detected in the Central Valley from Copiapo (north of Santiago) to Talca), Peru.


Damage on tomato roots made by M. luci (1st generation)
Courtesy: Dr S. Širca (Agricultural Institute of Slovenia)


M. luci was first described in 2014 from different plant species in Brazil, Chile and Iran. In the EPPO region, M. luci (initially identified as ‘M. ethiopica’) was first found in 2003 on glasshouse tomatoes in 1 location (Dornberk) in Slovenia. All infested plants were destroyed and the nematode was no longer found. However in 2015, M. luci was found again on tomato roots in a glasshouse near Ljubljana (village of Šmartno) where eradication measures are ongoing. In 2009, M. luci (as ‘M. ethiopica’) was detected in 2 soil samples which had been collected from maize (Zea mays) and kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa) near Kavalla, Northern Greece. The situation of this nematode in Greece needs to be further investigated. In 2009, M. luci (as ‘M. ethiopica’) was also detected in Türkiye in 2 tomato greenhouses of the University of Ondokuz Mayıs and in several commercial cucumber greenhouses in Çarşamba district (Samsun province). In 2013, M. luci was found in a single plot on potato (Solanum tuberosum) in Portugal. In the literature, there is a record of this nematode in Italy but data is lacking on its current situation.
EPPO region: Italy, Greece, Portugal (mainland and Azores at low prevalence), Serbia, Slovenia (under eradication), Türkiye.
South America: Brazil (Distrito Federal, Rio Grande do Sul, Parana), Chile, Guatemala.
Asia: Iran.


On which plants
M. ethiopica is a polyphagous pest that is able to parasitize at least 80 different host plants, including many economically important crops. Considering the recent confusion between M. ethiopica and M. luci, the following host plant list is now rather uncertain. In Africa and South America, M. ethiopica has been observed on many different cultivated species such as: Actinidia deliciosa (kiwi), Agave sisalana (sisal), Asparagus officinalis, Beta vulgaris (beetroot), Brassica oleracea (cabbages), Capsicum frutescens (chilli pepper), Citrullus lanatus (watermelon), Cucurbita spp., Ensete ventricosum (ensete), Glycine max (soybean), Lactuca sativa (lettuce), Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco), Phaseolus vulgaris (common bean), Polymnia sonchifolia (yacon), Solanum lycopersicum (tomato), Solanum tuberosum (potato), Vicia faba (faba bean), Vigna unguiculata (cowpea), Vitis vinifera (grapevine), as well as on trees (Acacia mearnsii) and weeds(Ageratum conyzoides, Datura stramonium, Solanum nigrum).


M. luci has been found on the following plant species: Abelmoschus esculentus (okra), Actinidia deliciosa (kiwifruit), Antirrhinum majus (snapdragon), Brassica oleracea var. italica (broccoli), Cucumis sativus (cucumber), Daucus carota (carrot), Glycine max (soybean), Hylotelephium spectabile (sedum), Lactuca sativa (lettuce), Lavandula angustifolia (lavender), Phaseolus vulgaris (common bean), Polymnia sonchifolia (yakon), Rosa sp. (rose), Solanum lycopersicum (tomato), Solanum tuberosum (potato), Vitis vinifera (grapevine). At least on bean, tomato, and soybean crops, symptoms of decline and stunting, as well as root galling have been reported.
Host range experiments have also showed that M. luci (as ‘M. ethiopica’) can also multiply on a large number of cultivated plants of economic importance, for example: Allium cepa (onion), Apium graveolens (celery), Fagopyrum esculentum (buckwheat), Helianthus annuus (sunflower), Hordeum vulgare (barley), Medicago sativa (lucerne), Oryza sativa (rice), Pisum sativum (pea), Prunus persica (peach), Solanum melongena (aubergine), Spinacia oleracea (spinach), Zea mays (maize).


Damage on tomato roots at the end of the production season
Courtesy: Dr S. Širca (Agricultural Institute of Slovenia)

Wilting on tomato plants caused by M. luci
Courtesy: Dr S. Širca (Agricultural Institute of Slovenia)



As is the case with other root-knot nematodes, both M. ethiopica and M. luci damage plants by affecting the development of their root systems which are distorted by multiple small and large galls and devoid of fine roots. Affected plants can also show above ground symptoms such as stunting and wilting. In Brazil and Chile, M. ethiopica is considered to be a damaging species on kiwi and grapevine, as infestations lead to a reduction of plant growth, fruit size and quality. In Brazil, it has also been reported to cause multiple galls on potato root systems, as well as protuberances on tubers. Data is generally lacking on the extent of damage and the economic impact these nematodes may cause on their different host plants. Data is also lacking on their biology.


Galls of M. ethiopica on grapevine
Courtesy: Dr RMDG Carneiro (Embrapa, BR)

Damage on yacon (Polymia sonchifolia) tubers (left: healthy - right: infested)
Courtesy: Dr RMDG Carneiro (Embrapa, BR)



As a root-knot nematode species, both M. ethiopica and M. luci can easily be transmitted with soil and plant root material. In Chile, it is suspected that movements of contaminated grapevine nursery stock have probably resulted in serious infestations in various vineyards. In Brazil, it is also suggested that M. ethiopica was introduced in 1989 to Rio Grande do Sul on kiwi seedlings imported from Curicó (Chile), and that the pest was then moved to Distrito Federal on infested bulbs of Polymnia sonchifolia (yacón or Peruvian ground apple) from Rio Grande do Sul.



Infested soil and growing media, plants for planting, bulbs and tubers from countries where M. ethiopica or M. luci occur are the most probable pathways to introduce and spread these pests into the EPPO region. Soil attached to machinery, tools, footwear, or plant products is also another possible pathway.


Possible risks

Both M. ethiopica and M. luci are polyphagous species and many of their host plants are of economic importance to the EPPO region as they are cultivated as arable, vegetable, ornamental or fruit crops. The detection of M. luci in the EPPO region clearly demonstrated that it has the potential to enter the region, although its pathway of introduction remains unknown. Studies had shown that, despite its probable tropical origin, M. luci (as ‘M. ethiopica’) has the potential to survive outdoors under a continental climate (hot summers and cold winters) even in areas where soil temperatures fall below zero during winter, as well as under a sub-Mediterranean climate (hot summers and mild winters). More studies on the potential of establishment of M. ethiopica in the EPPO region would be needed but its similarities with M. luci suggest that it may also survive under temperate conditions. Once root-knot nematodes have been introduced, it is in general difficult to control or eradicate them. The detection of virulent populations of M. luci in Türkiye that can reproduce on tomato plants bearing Mi-1 resistance gene adds to the concern about the damage potential of this pest. The Mi-1 resistance gene has been introgressed into many commercial tomato cultivars to control root-knot nematode species, and the fact that it can be overcome by some populations of M. luci limits the availability of efficient management options. The confusion between M. ethiopica and M. luci underlines the difficulties faced in establishing a reliable identification between morphologically similar species. Considering the wide host range of both species and their probable (or verified) ability to establish under temperate conditions, it seems desirable to avoid the introduction of M. ethiopica and the spread of M. luci in the EPPO region.



Warm thanks are due to Dr S. Širca (Agricultural Institute of Slovenia) who prepared the mini datasheet on M. ethiopica in 2011.


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EPPO RS 2011/004, 2013/006, 2014/007, 2016/212, 2017/216, 2017/217, 2017/218, 2018/058, 2019/133, 2020/171, 2022/143, 2022/204, 2022/215, 2023/089

Entry date 2011-01 (M. ethiopica) - 2017-11 (addition of M. luci)