The recent de-registration of several chemical nematicides and the impending loss of methyl bromide from the pest-control market necessitate the development of new methods for controlling nematode-induced crop damage. One approach for developing novel target-specific controls is by exploiting fundamental differences between the biological processes of nematodes and their host plants. Researchers of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the US Department of Agriculture are actively exploring these differences. Research accomplishments include the discovery of heat shock protein genes possibly involved in developmental arrest of the soybean cyst nematode, the identification of neuropeptides and female-specific proteins in the soybean cyst nematode, the disruption of nematode reproduction with inhibitors of nematode sterol metabolism, the development of novel morphological and molecular (heat shock protein genes and the D3 segment of large subunit ribosomal DNA) features useful for nematode identification and classification, and the elucidation of the population genetics of potato cyst nematode pathotypes. In addition, several ARS researchers are investigating biological determinants of nematode response to management strategies utilized in agricultural fields. These collective efforts should lead to new chemical and non-chemical alternatives to conventional nematode control strategies. Published in 2003 for SCI by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.