The first ever report on the presence of plant parasitic nematode, the root knot nematode on tea plantation in the erstwhile Madras state was reported by C. A. Barber, the Imperial Botanist in the year 1901. Later the pioneer entomologist of Agricultural College and Research Institute, T. B. Fletcher in his monumental publication “Some South Indian Insects” in 1914 had given a brief description with illustration of the root knot nematode on tea and cinchona. P. N. Krishna Iyyer (1926-1933) another entomologist of the college had reported several host biology of the parasite, symptoms of its damage and amelioration to offset the damage caused by the nematode in the economic crops of the state.
Except these reports and observations, no intense studies were undertaken to ascertain the role of nematode parasites on crop plants for want of trained personnel in the field of Plant Nematology.
The young scientists of Agricultural College and Research Institute, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University and other centres were deputed for training in south-east Post Graduate Nematology course held at Aligarh Muslim University and Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi in collaboration with International Agricultural Centre, Wagenningen, Netherlands, to improve the skills of the Nematologists.
The importance of plant nematodes was realized by the administrators and the scientists of other disciplines when the prevalence of the golden nematode on potato in The Nilgiris was reported by F. G. W. Jones in 1961. Therefore, the ICAR had granted financial assistance for establishing a Nematology unit in The Nilgiris for taking up intensive studies on the potato cyst nematode. Detailed survey and mapping of the areas of prevalence of cyst nematode in The Nilgiris was initially taken up and on completion of this programme, application of nematicide, Fensulphothion (Dasanit 10G) was given on large scale at a heavy dose of 30kg/ha in order to eradicate the nematodes. The operation was done free of cost to the farmers under Indo-German Nilgiris Development Project during 1971-1975. Plant Quarantine measures were also initiated in 1971 by involving the Madras Agricultural Pests and Disease Act, 1914, declaring the golden nematode as pest and the district of the Nilgiris as notified area to prevent the spread of the nematode within and outside The Nilgiris and also to other potato growing areas in the country. Adequate precautions were also made to prevent the entry of cyst nematodes through seed tubers from abroad. Domestic quarantine centers were estabilished at the entry points of The Nilgiris and the entry of infested tubers were checked.
Apart from the scheme on golden nematode, two co-ordinated schemes, one on the nematode parasites of cotton financed by the Indian Cotton Committee and the other on nematodes of vegetable, fruits and other crops sponsored by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research were in function at Coimbatore in the years 1963-1965. In the year 1979, ICAR scheme subsequently upgraded into All India Co-ordinated Project with a Project Co-ordinator at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi. Investigations were made on nematode parasites of sugarcane at sugarcane Research Station, Cuddalore on citrus and other fruit crops at the Horticultural Research Station, Periyakulam on medicinal plants under ICAR funding on burrowing nematode in banana.
The Rockefeller foundation provided assistance in training Dr. A. R. Seshadri, the first Nematologist of Agricultural College and Research Institute, Coimbatore by deputing him to persue Ph.D at Davis, California, USA. The Rockefeller foundation had gifted compound microscopes, zoom dissection microscopes, laboratory equipments and a pucca glasshouse structures which formed the foundation for the Department of Nematology. Simultaneously ICAR also sponsored a scheme in Ooty in 1963 to study the golden nematode in potato.
Since Dr. A. R. Seshadri became the first Head of Division of Nematology, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi in December 1967, the scientist trained under his able leadership was elevated from the post of Nematologist, to Professor and Head, Division of Nematology, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi.
Tamil Nadu was the first state in the country to realize the importance of nematodes as crop pests and holds the distinction of having established the first Nematology laboratory in 1961 for conducting research on nematode pests at the Agricultural College and Research Institute, Coimbatore. The Nematology section was initially started with one Nematologist, two Research Assistants, two Agricultural Assistants and one Laboratory Assistant. During 1979, Master degree programme on Nematology was started by the Nematology section functioning under Department of Entomology, Subsequently the Department of Plant Nematology was established in the year 1980 in Tami Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore and Dr. T.S. Muthukrishnan served as first Head of the Department of Nematology. All India Nematology workshop and Nematology symposium was organized by Dept. of Nematology, TNAU, Coimbatore in the year 1981. The doctoral degree programme on Nematology was started in the year 1990 by the Department of Nematology. A national Nematology conference on “Innovations in Nematological Research for Sustainability, Challenges and a Roadmap Ahead” funded by ICAR was organized by Nematology Department, TNAU. During 2003 the Department of Nematology also organized a winter school on “Biological control of Plant Parasitic Nematodes”. In 2015-2016, the Nematology Department conducted two 10 days training programmes funded by ICAR-AICRP-N on Refresher course on Nematology and Refresher course on Bioagents and Entomopathogenic Nematodes (2016) to non Nematology scientists working in All India Co-ordinated Research Project on nematodes in cropping systems throughout the country.
Extension activities were intensified under AICRP (Nematodes) during 2015-16 by way of conducting “Awareness campaigns”, field melas’ and “Scientists farmers interactive meets” on nematode management. A trilingual video (Tamil, English and Hindi) was released under AICRP (Nematodes) on “Management of root knot nematode in guava and pomegranate” to alert the farming community and extension personnels on dissemination of root knot nematodes through planting material in fruit crops and their management. ‘You tube’ and newsflashes were given on this subject in newspaper and Door Dharshan Pothigai through Directorate of Extension Education, TNAU, Coimbatore.