Weeds are alternative hosts for plant-parasitic nematodes and have long been recognized for their ability to maintain nematode populations targeted for suppression by various management strategies. The impact of weeds as alternative hosts depends largely on nematode feeding behavior, which is determined by the level of host specialization required for the parasite to feed successfully. In general, the more specialized feeding adaptations are associated with greater crop damage, more diverse nematode management options, and greater negative impact from weeds. Besides serving as alternative hosts, certain weeds can protect nematodes from pesticides and the environment, provide nematode suppression through antagonism, contribute to changes in future nematode biotic potential, or exert indirect effects through competition with crops or by the effects of weed control strategies on nematode populations. Shrinking nematicide options and increasing environmental concerns are making integrated pest management (IPM) a necessity for nematode management in many crops. A prominent similarity between most major weeds and plant-parasitic nematodes is that both are place-bound organisms that are passively dispersed. Weed–nematode interactions in agricultural production systems may be more intricate and complex than the simple function of weeds as alternative hosts. Their relationship may represent a normal adaptation resulting from the limited mobility of both groups of organisms and the obligate parasitism of phytophagous nematodes. The challenge that faces weed scientists and nematologists is to identify effective, compatible IPM strategies that address weed and nematode management collectively.
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Vol. 53 • No. 6