Ditylenchus destructor




Rev 11/19/2019

Potato Rot Nematode Classification Hosts
Morphology and Anatomy Life Cycle
Return to Ditylenchus Menu Economic Importance Damage
Distribution Management
Return to Anguinidae Menu Feeding  References
    Go to Nemaplex Main Menu   Go to Dictionary of Terminology


           Ditylenchus destructor
Back to Top

Morphology and Anatomy:

 Ditylenchus destructor is 0.8-1.4 mm long.

Reported median body size for this species (Length mm; width micrometers; weight micrograms) - Click:

Back to Top


Temperate regions; Europe, North America (Marin County, California), South Africa, China.

Back to Top

Economic Importance:

B-rated pest in California Nematode Pest Rating System

Causes severe damage to sweetpotatoes in the Shandong province of China (Wang et al., 1995).

Back to Top


Obligate parasite of higher and lower plants.  

Ditylenchus destructor usually feeds as an endoparasite below ground on tulips and other bulbs, but can also feed on fungal hyphae.  

To degrade plant cell walls, Ditylenchus destructor produces cellulases in the esophageal glands.  Two cellulase gaenes code for β-1,4-endoglucanases, both of which may hacve evolved from a common ancestral gene.  Stylet secretions indicate cellulase activity.  RNAi silencing of the cellulase genes in the nematode resulted in a 50% decrease in infection of potato Peng et al., 2014).

Back to Top


Iris, tulip and and other ornamental bulbs, sweetpotato.

Sugarbeet, carrot, potato, peanut; weeds and fungi as alternate hosts.

For an extensive host range list for this species, click


Back to Top

Life Cycle:

Ecophysiological Parameters:

For Ecophysiological Parameters for this species, click If species level data are not available, click for genus level parameters


Ditylenchus destructor does not have the J4 resistant stage seen in D. destructor.  It does not become anhydrobiotic and form eelworm wool. 

The nematode can survive on weed and fungal hosts; does not withstand desiccation.

Back to Top



Nematode enters potato tubers through lenticels and forms a white, mealy spot.  Tissues shrink; brown lesions appear; outer skin becomes papery.  Secondary invasions occur; general rot may also occur.  

In Marin County, California, infestation first occurred in 1968 in potatoes following iris bulbs.  No above-ground symptoms on potatoes, but there were pin-hole lesions on surface of tubers.

Nematode secretes pectinase enzyme and proteases to digest starch and proteins; this causes cell disintegration.  


Ditylenchus destructor also attacks potato tubers and produces the typical sunken lesions and dry-rot condition.  Lesions produced by this nematode are usually deeper than those produced by D. destructor.  Secondary fungal and bacterial invasion can also occur in lesions caused by D. destructor.

Ornamental bulbs:

Black lesions appear; leaves are poorly developed and yellow-tipped; stem infestations can occur, but are rare.  


Important pest on the 500,000 acres of peanuts in South Africa where it reduces yield by 12% and reduces quality by discoloring seed testa.

Discolored seed is downgraded into lower quality (and value) classes: Export>Domestic>Processing.  The price changes associated with downgrading are much more significant than the direct yield loss.  


Causes water loss and cell shrinkage in sweetpotato tubers; also reduction in size and number of starch grains (Sun et al, 1998; Wang et al, 1995).

Back to Top


Start with clean seed potato tubers.

Crop rotation is not effective as the species is polyphagous.

Host-plant resistance in potato has been explored on a limited scale.  Sixty eight of 508 varieties and accessions of sweetpotato showed resistance in China (Wang, 1995).  Xylem parenchyma had thicker, lignified walls in resistant varieties (Lin, 1996).

Host Plant Resistance, Non-hosts and Crop Rotation alternatives:

For plants reported to have some level of resistance to this species, click


Soil fumigation is rarely economical.  However, control was achieved in the Marin County infestation by using ethylene dibromide (EDB) applied at a rate of 90 lbs/acre, with chisels 12" apart.

Early harvest of peanuts avoids some economic loss in South Africa.  Cultivars are selected that allow early harvest in specific biogeographic regions (Venter et al., 1991).

Back to Top


Lin, M.S., L.M. He, L. Wen and Z.D. Fang. 1996. Mechanism of morphological structure of sweet potato resistance to root rot nematode (Ditylenchus destructor). Scientia Agricultura Sinica 29:8-12.

Peng, H., Peng. D., Long, H., He, W., Qiao, F., Wang, G., and Huang, W. 2014.  Characterization and functional importance of β-1,4-endoglucanases from the potato rot nematode, Ditylenchus destructor. Nematology 16:505-517.

Sun, J.H., D.L. Peng, K.L. Yu, P. Bi, and Y. K. Peng. 1998. SEM study on tissue pathology of stem nematode disease of sweet potato. Acta Agriculturae Boreali Sinica 13:101-105.

Venter C., D. DeWaele, and A.J. Meyer. 1991. Reproductive and damage potential of Ditylenchus destructor on peanut. Jourrnal of Nematology 23:12-19.

Wang, Q.M., C.X. Chang, J.J. Wang and G.H. Xi. 1995. Identification of resistance to stem nematode in sweetpotato.  Crop Genetic Resources 2:36-37.

Back to Top

Copyright © 1999 by Howard Ferris.
Revised: November 19, 2019.