Did you know that 92% of living carbon in estuarine and marine sediment consists of nematodes? Or that ascarid eggs, dating all the way back from 7000 to 10 000 years ago, were recorded from a coprolite in South Africa? Just a couple of fascinating trivia that can be gleaned from the recent publication compiling everything there is to know about nematodes in South Africa. Focused primarily on plant-parasitic nematodes, proportionately reflecting the bulk of knowledge on this group of nematodes in the region, the book also covers various other aspects of nematology and recent progress in the diversity, taxonomy and ecology of free-living, estuarine and freshwater nematodes, as well as insect, slug and human-pathogenic nematodes. This book provides an excellent update and expansion of the book by Heyns & Keetch (1982), reflecting recent progress and activity in nematology in South Africa.
Do not be distracted by the book’s geographical tag, however. While regionally specific, it is highly relevant to nematology in general across the globe. As pointed out in one of the Forewords (yes, there are two!), “…this publication is focused strongly on the science of Nematology and is of significance to local and international researchers, crop commodity organisations, agricultural advisers and a broad range of readers involved in crop production and environmental and human health”. This book is an excellent overview for the nematologist in general, providing an easily digestible chapter on taxonomy and morphology, nicely depicted with clear and simple descriptive drawings through to a techniques and methods chapter. This covers the various sampling, extraction, quantification, killing, fixing, mounting and rearing methods. A chapter on quarantine and phytosanitary aspects provides a practical overview of nematode risks and controls, while a comprehensive coverage of the development and future potential of nematicides gives us a compact and practical history lesson on this, at times controversial, aspect of our science, before a strong delivery of alternative management options, including much emphasis on the smallholder farmer.
The book then deals with the various crops by chapter, using a well laid out structure repeated through each chapter for uniformity. One chapter even covers grasses and weeds, before moving on to other aspects, such as non-parasitic nematodes, creating an interesting diversion from plant-parasitic nematodes by plunging us into estuarine waters and delving deep into underground caves. A useful description of the various trophic groups of non-parasitic nematodes helps provide the basics for us to separate out these nematodes. Then we have the insect, slug and human-pathogenic nematodes that may not be for the faint-hearted. The entomopathogenic nematode section demonstrates the rapid and significant progress made over recent years, while the slug-parasitic nematode section introduces some fascinating developments on what is likely to be the first activity in this area on the continent.
While obviously having a southern African flavour, this book is a rich taste of nematology across the board and a useful reference book for anybody working on nematodes and, in particular, plant-parasitic nematodes. If anything, given the high quality of the photographs availed, it would have been good to have seen more included. For those with connections to the Southern African Society of Nematologists, the opening chapter recreates the whole story from inception to current day, detailing just about everybody involved; for me it added a warming personal touch. Dedicated to the late Alex Mc Donald, I am sure he would have been proud indeed of this production, and given it his highest seal of approval.
Heyns D.P., Keetch J. (Eds) (1982). Nematology in Southern Africa. Pretoria, Republic of South Africa, Division of Agricultural Information.