Banning of methyl bromide for seed treatment: could Ditylenchus dipsaci again become a major threat to alfalfa production in Europe?



In Europe, the stem and bulb nematode Ditylenchus dipsaci has been listed as a quarantine pest by EPPO: without any control, it may cause complete failure of alfalfa crops. Movement of nematodes associated with seeds is considered to be the highest-risk pathway for the spread of this pest. Since the 2010 official withdrawal of methyl bromide in Europe, and in the absence of any alternative chemical, fumigation of contaminated seed batches is no longer possible, which makes the production of nematode-free alfalfa seeds difficult to achieve and leads to unmarketable seed batches. Thermotherapy is being considered as a realistic alternative strategy, but its efficiency still remains to be validated. The combination of the currently available methods (i.e. use of resistant cultivars, seed production according to a certification scheme, mechanical sieving, seed batch inspection) could significantly reduce the likelihood of seed contamination. However, it does not guarantee a total eradication of the nematode. Although it is already widely distributed all over Europe, reclassification of D. dipsaci as a regulated non-quarantine pest to reduce the possibility of further introductions and the rate of spread of this pest appears to be a risky strategy because of the lack of up-to-date documented data to evaluate damage thresholds and determine acceptable tolerance levels. [[ArtCopyrightmsg]]