Australasian Plant Disease Notes

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 75–78 | Cite as

Root-Knot Nematode (Meloidogyne incognita) on Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia) near Darwin, Australia

  • S. K. SinghEmail author
  • B. Conde
  • M. Hodda


The Root-Knot nematode Meloidogyne incognita was identified morphologically from diseased Bitter Melon root samples taken from a farm at Buckley Road, Humpty Doo, Darwin. Meloidogyne species have been recorded from the Northern Territory on various hosts including bitter melon, but none were identified to species, so this is the first report confirming Meloidogyne incognita on Bitter Melon from the Northern Territory, Australia.


Root-knot nematode diagnosis Perineal pattern Bitter Melon pests Asian vegetables 

Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia), also commonly referred to as Bitter Gourd, Balsam Pear, Bitter Cucumber, and African Cucumber is a vegetable consumed in most Asian countries with many culinary and herbal medicine uses (Basch et al. 2003; Behera et al. 2010). In Australia, Bitter Melon is grown mainly in the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales and in smaller quantities in other states to meet local market demand (Morgan and Midmore 2002). Bitter Melon production in the Northern Territory has steadily increased as a result of increased plantings by new Asian growers (Smith 2001) and is an important crop in the Asian vegetable industry (Midmore et al. 2004).

In September 2011, diseased Bitter Melon plants showing above-ground symptoms of wilting and dying (Fig. 1) were observed on a farm at Buckley Road, Humpty Doo, Darwin. These symptoms could have been due to several root pathogens, of which nematodes were only one. The root systems of the plants were examined and found to be heavily infected with root-knot nematodes (100 % of root system) forming large coalescing root galls (Fig. 2). The infected root samples were sent to CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences in Canberra, for root-knot nematode species diagnosis.
Fig. 1

Wilting and drying out of Bitter Melon caused by Meloidogyne incognita. Other pathogens or environmental stress may cause similar symptoms either alone or in combination with nematodes, however nematodes are often overlooked in searching for the cause of these symptoms

Fig. 2

Bitter Melon root system showing heavy root galling, characteristic of Root-Knot Nematodes. Although characteristic of the genus Meloidogyne, diagnosis to species requires examination of the nematodes

Female nematodes were dissected from the infected roots and processed for morphological examination as outlined in Shurtleff and Averre (2000). Male and juvenile specimens were obtained from the infected roots by cutting the roots into small pieces and incubating them at room temperature (22 °C) for 48 h in a Petri dish half filled with distilled water. Identifications were confirmed on specimens fixed in formaldehyde for 2 weeks, then processed to glycerol by the slow method and mounted on permanent slides (Hooper 1986). The slides are deposited in the Australian National Nematode Collection held within the ANIC at CSIRO in Canberra. The morphological features of the female, male and juvenile specimens (presented below) matched the most recent description for Meloidogyne incognita provided in Hunt and Handoo (2009). Measurements: mean ± standard error (μm) Female (N = 10) length = 570 ± 65, diameter = 340 ± 50, stylet length = 15 ± 0.5, stylet basal knobs rounded and offset and body pear shaped without any posterior protuberance. Typical perineal pattern oval shape, high squared dorsal arch, striae wavy lateral field absent (Fig. 3). Male (N = 1) length = 1375, stylet length = 24, spicule = 29, gubernaculum length = 12, labial region not offset, labial disc elevated, basal knobs offset, rounded. Juvenile (N = 5) length = 365 ± 30, stylet length = 11 ± 0.5, tail length = 49 ± 5, hyaline tail length = 9.8 ± 0.4, hemizonid anterior to excretory pore, tail tip rounded.
Fig. 3

Typical M. incognita perineal pattern showing high squared dorsal arch, wavy striae and lateral field absent. Scale bar = 22 μm

In addition to M. incognita, eight other Meloidogyne species have been recorded in Australia and can be distinguished from each other based on a combination of morphological characteristics (Table 1). M. javanica, the other common root-knot species in the Northern Territory, can be distinguished easily from M. incognita on the basis of female perineal pattern.
Table 1

Diagnostic characteristics of Meloidogyne species recorded in Australia






perineal pattern

stylet length μm

spicule μm

gubernaculum μm

stylet length μm

tail μm


Perineal pattern oval to rounded, striae usually wavy, high squared dorsal arch, lateral field absent or weakly demarcated by forked striae.

25.0 (23–26)

35.2 (28.8–40.3)


10.5 (9.6–11.7)

46 (38–55)

Hunt and Handoo 2009; Whitehead 1968


Perineal pattern rounded, striae interrupted laterally by a pair of conspicuous incisures extending on both sides of the tail terminus, low dorsal arch trapezoid shape, tail whorl often distinct.

21.2 (19–24)

26.7 (20.9–31.7)


10.4 (9.4–11.4)

49 (36–56)

Hunt and Handoo 2009; Whitehead 1968


Striae fairly widely separated and mostly smooth, very low dorsal arch, striae bent towards tail tip at lateral line forming shoulders on lateral portion of arch. Lateral incisures absent or unclear.

23.0 (20–28)

32.0 (27.0–39.0)


11.1 (10.1–11.9)

56 (43.6-69.4)

Cliff and Hirschmann 1985; Hunt and Handoo 2009


Closely spaced smooth or slightly wavy striae; dorsal arch low rounded; lateral lines present, characteristic punctations usually present near anus.

20.0 (19–22)

25.7 (21.6–28.1)


9.7 (7.9–10.9)

43 (33–48)

Hunt and Handoo 2009; Whitehead 1968


Oval shape perineal pattern, striae coarse, moderately high dorsal arch, lateral lines weakly visible.

19.6 (19–21)

26.6 (22.1–29.7)


10.8 (10.1–11.4)

49.3 (46.1–55.6)

Hunt and Handoo 2009; Karssen 1996


Perineal pattern circular shape, dorsal arch very low, rounded or slightly flattened dorsally, no clear lateral lines.

24.9 (21–28)

25.7 (21.6–28.1)


11.1 (10.2–12.7)

53 (50–58)

Whitehead 1968


Perineal pattern rounded, long smooth striae, rounded arch, without distinct lateral lines.

18.0 (17–19)

30.0 (27.2–33.5)


12.7 (11.9–13.6)

69.9 (60.6–87.3)

Bernard and Eisenback 1997


Perineal pattern rounded/oval, low dorsal arch; striae smooth, widely spaced, coarse, broken and folded in lateral regions; lateral field absent.




9.9 (8.6–11.4)

44 (39–50)

Lordello and Zamith 1958; Whitehead 1968


Oval-shaped to rectangular with a low dorsal arch, the dorsal striae fine wavy or coarse, the lateral lines forked with fringe-like striae; distinct phasmidial ducts.

23.5 (22–24)

32.1 (31.1–33.7)


11.1 (10.4–11.9)

46.4 (41.1–53.4)

Hirschmann 1986

aValues are means (range)

M. incognita is highly pathogenic on Bitter Melon elsewhere (Anwar and McKenry 2010; Chandra et al. 2010; Chen and Tsay 2006). Hence it could become a damaging pest of Bitter Melon in the Northern Territory. The use of green manure (Sudax sorghum) in the Northern Territory and soil amendments (saw dust and chicken manure) by Queensland ginger growers to manage root knot nematodes has had some success and could be investigated further as a management option (Conde et al. 1999). Further studies on root-knot nematodes in the Northern Territory will be necessary to determine whether there are other species of nematodes causing damage to Bitter Melon, to assess crop losses and to develop better management strategies.

The authors thank Mr. Stuart Smith and Mr. Mark Traynor (Department of Resources, Northern Territory Government) for collection of root samples and Ms. Lois Ulyatt (Department of Resources, Northern Territory Government) for preparation and dispatch of samples from Darwin. The authors acknowledge the support of the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centres Program.


  1. Anwar SA, McKenry MV (2010) Incidence and reproduction of Meloidogyne incognita on vegetable crop genotypes. Pak J Zool 42:135–141Google Scholar
  2. Basch E, Gabardi S, Ulbricht C (2003) Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia): a review of efficacy and safety. Am J Health Syst Pharm 60:356–359PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Behera TK, Behera S, Bharathi LK, John KJ, Simon PW, Staub JE (2010) Bitter Gourd: Botany, horticulture, breeding. Horticultural Rev 37:101–141Google Scholar
  4. Bernard EC, Eisenback JD (1997) Meloidogyne trifoliophila n. sp. (Nemata: Meloidogynidae) a parasite of clover from Tennessee. J Nematol 29:43–54PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Chandra P, Sao R, Gautam SK, Poddar AN (2010) Initial population density and its effect on the pathogenic potential and population growth of the root-knot nematode Meloidogyne incognita in four species of cucurbits. Asian J Plant Pathol 4:1–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chen P, Tsay TT (2006) Effect of crop rotation on Meloidogyne spp. and Pratylenchus spp. populations in strawberry fields in Taiwan. J Nematol 38:339–344PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Cliff GM, Hirschmann H (1985) Evaluation of morphological variability in Meloidogyne arenaria. J Nematol 17:445–459PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Conde B, Pitkethley R, Connelly M, Ulyatt L (1999) Root knot nematode, a serious problem of vegetables in the top end of the Northern Territory. Australasian Nematology Newsletter 10:19–20Google Scholar
  9. Hirschmann H (1986) Meloidogyne hispanica n.sp (Nematoda, Meloidogynidae), the Seville root-knot nematode. J Nematol 18:520–532PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Hooper DJ (1986) Handling, fixing, staining and mounting nematodes. In: Southey JF (ed) Laboratory methods for work with plant and soil nematodes. Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, pp 59–80Google Scholar
  11. Hunt DJ, Handoo ZA (2009) Taxonomy, identification and principal species. In: Perry RN, Moens M, Starr JL (eds) Root-knot Nematodes. CABI, Wallingford, pp 55–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Karssen G (1996) Description of Meloidogyne fallax n.sp (Nematoda: Heteroderidae), a root-knot nematode from the Netherlands. Fund Appl Nematol 19:593–599Google Scholar
  13. Lordello LGE, Zamith APL (1958) On the morphology of the coffee root-knot nematode, Meloidogyne exigua Goeldi, 1887. Proc Helm Soc Wash 25:133–137Google Scholar
  14. Midmore D, Gallacher D, Morgan W, Nguyen V, Hay F, McLaughlin P, Thomson G, Blackburn K, Gosbee M, McVeigh V, Wearing A, Loader L, Hastings J, O’Hare T (2004) Consolidating the Asian vegetable industry building on past achievements and actions for the future. RIRDC Publication No. 04/028 Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation. Canberra AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  15. Morgan W, Midmore D (2002) Bitter Melon in Australia. RIRDC Publication No. 02/134 Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation. Canberra, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  16. Shurtleff MC, Averre CW III (2000) Diagnosing plant diseases caused by nematodes. American Phytopathological Society Press, MinnesotaGoogle Scholar
  17. Smith ESC (2001) Review of horticultural and agricultural developments in the NT from 1991–1998. In: Young G (ed) Proceedings of the sixth workshop for tropical agricultural entomologists Darwin, May 1998. Technical Bulletin no 288, pp 5–10Google Scholar
  18. Whitehead AG (1968) Taxonomy of Meloidogyne (Nematoda: Heteroderidae) with descriptions of four new species. Trans Zool Soc Lond 31:263–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Australasian Plant Pathology Society Inc. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CSIRO Ecosystem SciencesCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Department of ResourcesNorthern Territory GovernmentDarwinAustralia
  3. 3.Cooperative Research Centre for National Plant BiosecurityBruceAustralia

Personalised recommendations