Commissioner Steve Troxler: New Nematode Molecular Diagnostic Fee in effect

The NCDA&CS’ nematode lab had a record-breaking year with over 52,300 samples processed, including 2,878 molecular diagnostic samples. Interest in nematode testing has increased from sweet potato producers, particularly in identifying the Guava root knot nematode. The lab has had to increase its fee from $10 to $20 to help manage increased laboratory supplies and staffing needs to process samples.

  • Our Agronomic Services Division’s nematode lab posted a record-breaking year in fiscal year 2019, with over 52,300 samples processed, including 2,878 molecular diagnostic samples.
  • I am happy sweet potato growers are using the lab and the services we provide, but it is challenging to keep up with that kind of demand.
  • To help us keep pace with requests for this service, we have increased the fee for the nematode molecular diagnostic samples from $10 to $20. That started on Nov. 1. These tests are more time-consuming, highly technical and expensive to perform.
  • The increase will help to offset additional costs for increased laboratory supplies and staffing needs to process samples. Even with the increase, our molecular diagnostic testing is still less expensive than what other state labs are charging farmers for the same service.
  • The regular $3 fee per sample will still be charged for a routine nematode assay, because that testing must be performed first to get the genetic material needed for the molecular diagnosis.
  • Molecular diagnosis is the only way to identify nematodes to the species level, which has become more of a concern with the discovery of the Guava root knot nematodes in the state. This is a highly destructive pest of sweet potatoes.
  • A heavy infestation of the Guava root knot nematode will severely impact the quality of sweet potatoes and can make a whole field unmarketable. Being able to identify the root knot nematode to the species level is critical in monitoring and controlling the impact of the pest to the sweet potato industry.
  • Sweet potatoes are an important crop for our state, and especially Eastern North Carolina. We rank No. 1 in sweet potato production in the country, producing over half (55.2 percent) of the total U.S. production.
  • The top three sweet potato producing counties are Wilson, Nash and Johnston.
  • Nematode molecular diagnostic testing has gotten off to a quick start for the 2019-2020 year. Since July 1, the lab has performed more than 250 molecular diagnostic identifications. That is more than double the requests for the same time period last year.