Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner
Michael Moran, 518-457-0752

November 10, 2011

New York State Advises Garlic Growers to Beware of Imported Nematode

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Darrel J. Aubertine today alerted New York’s garlic growers that Stem and Bulb Nematode (Ditylenchus dipsaci), a serious pest of garlic and other crops, has been found in the State on imported seed garlic. The Commissioner provided advice to growers on options to help protect their crop, which is scheduled to be planted this month. The presence of Stem and Bulb Nematode, also known as the Bloat Nematode, in seed shipments destined for New York State has been confirmed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agricultural Specialists.  Once established, Stem and Bulb Nematode will cause a significant decline in production and, at times, death of the plants.

“Garlic is an important crop in New York. It is a valuable crop that has seen production increase,” said Commissioner Aubertine. “But, this pest presents a real threat to our garlic crop. Growers need to understand the threat and take precautions.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) continues to work with CBP to identify and address pathways by which this nematode may enter the United States.  Given the potential economic impact of this pest, APHIS has initiated a review to determine appropriate ways to prevent further spread within the US.

The Stem and Bulb Nematode is a microscopic worm that can cause yellowing and death to garlic plants. Some host crops can experience swelling and distortion of plant parts and rotting of stem bases. While the nematode poses no risk to human health, it can affect international trade of certain commodities. It is also nearly impossible to eliminate because it can survive on a range of other hosts, as well as the soil itself. Other host crops include onions, potatoes, alfalfa, strawberries and ornamental plants.

To help prevent Stem and Bulb Nematode from entering the country and impacting our local crop, growers should always require a valid phytosanitary certificate when they purchase foreign seed. If growers have concerns about a shipment of seed, they should contact their local Cornell Cooperative Extension agent to have the seed tested. Garlic growers can also reach out to Cooperative Extension for testing to receive confirmation that a crop is nematode free.

The Department has also provided a $69,122 grant to the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva for testing and analysis of garlic seed.  The grant will also assist with determining the extent of this pest’s presence in New York.

Cornell Cooperative Extension held three meetings last year where growers expressed their concerns regarding the possible presence of Stem and Bulb Nematode. The Garlic Seed Foundation has also been hearing from growers.  According to David Stern, Director of the Foundation, “We are hearing from an increasing number of growers regarding problems with their garlic crop due to this Nematode.  The attention to this issue by NYSDAM, Cooperative Extension, CBP, APHIS and Dr. George Abawi, with his work at Cornell, is greatly appreciated!  We look forward to working with them to address what is becoming a very serious problem for garlic growers.”

In follow up, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) initiated Operation Stem Bloat Nematode, where they sampled all imported shipments of garlic for seed and found 40-50 percent of the shipments were infested with the nematode. “We were surprised at the volume of shipments found to be infested with this nematode, given how clean and disease-free the garlic cloves appeared”, said Ann Marie Paul, CBP Assistant Director of Field Operations, Buffalo, NY. 

These findings initiated a temporary change in national protocol on seed garlic entering the country from Canada by requiring all shipments to be sampled and tested for the presence of this nematode. 

According to the 2007 US Census of Agriculture, New York has 330 garlic farms that dedicate 306 acres to garlic production. Garlic production is up considerably since 1992 when the State only reported 11 acres grown. The vast majority of the garlic grown in New York State is marketed fresh and is valued at $24.5 million.  New York State is fourth in the nation in terms of acreage devoted to garlic production.

2011 Press Releases