Haddish Melakeberhan

Associate Professor

Haddish Melakeberhan


293 Giltner Hall
East Lansing, MI 48824

Phone: (517) 355-4487

Area of Expertise: Integrated and sustainable nematode, nutrient cycling, and soil health management in cropping systems.

Quick links: Education    Teaching    Publications    Research

Joined Department

February 15, 2010


  • 85% Research
  • 15% Teaching


Abbreviated CV

Special Publication - “No matter how you slice it, healthy soil is important”

SON 2015 Abstracts


A Cross-cutting Undergraduate Course (HRT 405) titled “Sustainable Practices for Horticultural Food Crop Production” is under development.

Research Interests

Research Program Overview

My research focus has been on understanding plant-nematode-soil-nutrient interactions at the organism and ecosystem levels with a strategic vision of developing integrated and sustainable nematode, nutrient cycling, and soil health management in cropping systems. Nematodes, the most abundant metazoan on the planet, include bacteriovores, fungivores, herbivores, carnivores, omnivores, and predator trophic groups. Herbivores impact the food chain; whereas, all nematodes are critical part of the soil food web and nutrient cycling processes. Soil-inhabiting herbivore nematodes cause crop quality and yield loss by sucking host cell contents root destruction and disrupting water and nutrient uptake and the photosynthesis process in one of three ways: destructive (host cells killed, e.g. root-lesion, Pratylenchus), adaptive (cells modified e.g. cyst, Heterodera) and neoplastic (cells modified and undergo new growth, e.g. root-knot, Meloidogyne) feeding behaviors. We have used the three feeding behaviors as models to study plant-nematode-soil-nutrient interactions and developed a fertilizer use efficiency (FUE) model that separates nutrient deficiency and toxicity from nematode parasitism as well as suitability of treatments designed to achieve desired economic, agro-ecological, biological and physiochemical soil health conditions. This has allowed us to move from managing herbivore nematodes only to managing all nematode trophic groups as part of a soil ecosystem, leading towards developing integrated knowledge for improved food security and ecosystem health management. The strategic vision is being pursued along four major themes: i) Understanding the impact of tillage and cropping systems on nematode adaptation; ii) Understanding nematode parasitic variability in cropping systems; iii) Assessing integrated efficiency of cultural practice and soil nutrient amendment strategies; and iv) Developing a soil group or order (the plates up on which different cultures and land use practices stump their ecosystem change footprints) based scalable soil health management strategies.

Program Interactions with Regional/National Nematology Projects:

Current and Recent Funding Sources:

Research Projects

Current and Recent Major Projects:

Understanding soil nutrient cycling and management at regional and continental scales:

We are basing our studies on soil groups or orders, the plates up on which different cultures and land use practices stump their ecosystem change footprints, to develop an understanding of nutrient cycling management across climatic and socio-cultural zones. We have two new and two completed projects:

New Projects:

Integrated and scalable nematode-soil health management for smallholder potato farming systems (2017-2019). This USAID-Horticultural Innovations Laboratory funded project is a collaborative effort among the University of Hawaii (lead), Michigan State University, and Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala.  Plant-parasitic nematodes and soil degradation on smallholder farms reduce crop yields and limit smallholder food and nutritional security. Current smallholder agricultural practices exacerbate soil degradation and losses to plant-parasitic nematodes. The project goal is to assist smallholder farmers in the Guatemalan Highlands in adopting scalable, integrated nematode-soil health management technologies to achieve sustainable crop yield that provide income, food and nutritional security. Replicated research experiments, designed with engagement of smallholder farmers, have been initiated to demonstrate effectiveness of soil amendments and biopesticides on-farms on Andisole and Mollisole soil groups (orders). These trials encompass different socio-cultures. Our transdisciplinary research team is monitoring and collecting data from the research experiments focusing on nematode control, economics, and soil health. A unique aspect of this project is mental modeling (social science approach to gauging how people think) of smallholder farmers to identify integrated nematode-soil health management options most likely to be adopted and scaled up across ecozones and cultures.

Improving soil health and fertilizer use efficiency in subsistence fruit and vegetable agriculture in Malawi (2017-2019). Poor soil fertility driven by intensive cultivation, insufficient fertilizer application, the lack of composting and climate-smart soil fertility management practices, the lack of affordable soil testing services, insufficient fertilizer formulation for different soil nutrient types, and insufficient working capital for farmers to procure adequate fertilizer amounts are among the overarching challenges in Malawi’s horticultural sector.  The soil health component is a small portion of a much bigger project is recommended for funding by USDA Food for Progress. The overall project is designed to address many intertwined agricultural, societal, and economic challenges. The project is anticipated to start around August, 2017 soon to be followed by ground-turthing to identify crop- and region-specific problems, and potential solutions in selected vegetable and fruit crops. Our goal is to demonstrate how grower-selected, climate-smart soil amendments affect soil health and educate growers on how they can adopt the outcomes.

Completed Projects:

Temperate climate project (2011-2012): Using nematode assemblage analysis as indicator of ecosystem change and nutrient cycling potential, we investigated disturbed (agricultural) and undisturbed (natural vegetation) in Udalfs, Psamments (sandy) and Saprists (organic) soil sub-orders about 300 miles apart between the latitudes of 42o and 45o in Michigan representing temperature zones of 40.1 - 45.0 oF and 45.1 - 50.0 oF, respectively. Preliminary data suggest that the same soil groups’ biological structure and/or function varies by temperature and disturbance. This study provided basis for the sub-Saharan project. Lead collaborators: J. Qi (Center for Global Change and Earth Observations), A. Adelaja and J. Warbach (Land Policy Institute), A.J.M. Smucker (Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences), P.S. Grewal (The Ohio State University), and S. Mennan (Ondokuz Mayis University, Turkey).

Sub-Saharan Africa project (2012-2014): The objectives of this Howard G. Buffett-funded project are to develop a proof-of-concept for: a) the types (biological, nutritional, physiochemical and/or structural), and b) levels (e.g. healthy, fixable or unfixable) of degradations in Ferralsol, Lithosol, and Nitosol soil groups across climatic zones and land use practices in Ghana, Malawi and Kenya, and c) drawing accurate, scalable and potentially sustainable soil health management strategies for improved food security and adaptation to climate change challenges across the continent. Lead collaborators: T. Schmidt (University of Michigan), J. Qi (Center for Global Change and Earth Observations), J.W. Kimenju (University of Nairobi, Kenya), C. Kwoseh (Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana), and V. Saka (Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Malawi).

Long-term Projects:

Effects of tillage and cropping systems on nematode adaptation (on-going since 2003):

The soybean cyst nematode (SCN) is the single most important and chronic pest of soybeans in the USA and continues to spread across the soybean production landscape. Despite a substantial body of knowledge on the biology of SCN and its management using resistant cultivars, rotations and potential biocontrol agents, the effect of no-till system has been inconclusive and most of the research is based after it has been detected. On-going is a study initiated in 2003 where SCN was introduced into an SCN virgin Sisson sandy loam (Fine, loamy, mixed, semiactive, mesic Type, Hapludalfs) soil under till and no-till, and either corn (C), SCN- resistant soybean (R), or SCN-susceptible soybean (S) monocrop, or RCRC and SCSC rotation cycles. The objectives are to determine: 1) the time it takes for SCN to reach damaging threshold levels; 2) its reproduction relative to nematode community structure; and 3) how non-target biological and soil physiochemical changes relate to SCN population dynamics. Collaborators: A. Kravchenko and K. Thelen (Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences), P.S. Grewal (The Ohio State University), and S. Mennan (Ondokuz Mayis University, Turkey).

Understanding nematode parasitic variability in cropping systems (On-going):

The northern root-knot (NRKN, Meloidogyne hapla) and SCN are among the nematodes with high degree of parasitic variability in Michigan agriculture. Our investigations integrating nutrient management, host suitability and soil types are on-going at different levels and have generated a number of publications since 2006.  Most recent accomplishments include establishing a proof-of-concept for location-specific management of nematode parasitic variability in carrot, celery and potato cropping systems.

Assessing integrated efficiency of cultural practices and soil amendments:

Suppressing herbivore nematodes and improving soil nutrient cycling potential and ecosystem health are cross-cutting priorities for Michigan agriculture. We have two collaborative projects.  

Vegetable production system (2012-2015): Using a carrot production system model in sandy clay loam soil, this project tests how plant- and animal-based compost amendments alter the relationships among herbivore and beneficial nematodes, soil quality, and yield and quality of fresh market and processing carrot cultivars. Collaborators: D. Brainard and M. Ngouajio (Department of Horticulture) and A. Kravchenko (Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences).  

Sugar beet production system (2012-2015): The objectives of this study are to quantifying the effects of rotation (sugar beet, corn and soybean) and cover (oilseed radish and mustard) crops on soil health and nematode community in different soil types on grower fields. Collaborators: M. McGrath (USDA/ARS), S. Poindexter (MSUE), G. Clark, J. Stewart and L. Hubble (Michigan Sugar Beet Industry), and participating growers. 

Selected Publications

Grabau, Z.J., Z.T.Z. Maung, C. Noyes, D. Baas, B.P. Werling, D.C. Brainard, and H. Melakeberhan (2017). Effects of cover crops on Pratylenchus penetrans and the nematode community in carrot production. Journal of Nematology, 49:114-123.

Nair, M.G., Seenivasan, N., Liu, Y., Feick, R.M., Maung, Z.T.A. and Melakeberhan, H. (2015). Leaf constituents of Curcuma spp. suppress Meloidogyne hapla and increase bacterial-feeding nematodes. Nematology, 17:353-361.

Melakeberhan H, W. Wang, A. Kravchenko, and  K. Thelen (2015). Effects of agronomic practices on the timeline of Heterodera glycines establishment in a new location. Nematology, 17:705-713.

Melakebehan, H., Z.T.Z, Maung, S. Yildiz, T. Schmidt, T. Teal, J. Qi, J. Gronseth, C. Kwoseh, T. Adjei-Gyapong, V. Saka, M. Lowole, J.W. Kimenju, G.N. Karuku, P.M. Wachira, G. Kariuki, and V.N. Gathaara (2013). Hidden biological secrets that could revolutionize ecosystem based food security and adaptation to climate change in degraded sub-Saharan Africa soils. UNEP Conference on Harnessing Ecosystem Services, Nairobi, Kenya, August 20-21, 2013. http://www.foodsec.aaknet.org/index.php/widgetkit/capacity-building

Melakeberhan, H., and W. Wang (2013). Proof-of-concept for managing Meloidogyne hapla parasitic variability in carrot production soils. Nematology, 14:339-346.

Melakeberhan, H., and W. Wang (2012).  Suitability of celery cultivars to populations of Meloidogyne hapla. Nematology, 14:623-629.

Melakeberhan, H., D. Douches, and W. Wang (2012). Interactions of selected potato cultivars and populations of Meloidogyne hapla adapted to the US Midwest soils. Crop Science, 52:1-6.

Mennan, S. and H. Melakeberhan (2010). Effects of biosolid amendment on populations of Meloidogyne hapla in soil with different textures and pHs. Bioresource Technology, 101: 7169-7175.

Melakeberhan, H. (2010). Cross-disciplinary efficiency assessment of agronomic and soil amendment practices designed to suppress biotic yield-limiting factors. Journal of Nematology, 42: 73-77.

Zasada, I., M.F. Avendano, Y.C., Li, T. Logan, H. Melakeberhan., S.R. Koenning, and G.L. Tylka (2008).  Potential of alkaline-stabilized biosolid to manage nematodes: Case studies on soybean cyst and root-knot nematodes. Plant Disease 92:4-13.

Melakeberhan, H., and M.F. Avendano (2008).  Spatio-temporal consideration of soil conditions and site-specific management of nematodes. Precision Agriculture 9: 341-354.

Melakeberhan. H., S. Mennan, M. Ngouajio, and T. Dudek (2008).  Effect of Meloidogyne hapla on multi-purpose use of oilseed radish (Raphanus sativus).  Nematology 10: 375-379.

Melakeberhan, H. (2007).  Effect of starter nitrogen on soybeans under Heterodera glycines infestation.  Plant and Soil 301: 111-121.

Melakeberhan, H., S. Mennan, S. Chen, B. Darby, and T. Dudek (2007).  Integrated approaches to understanding and managing Meloidogyne hapla populations’ parasitic variability.  Crop Protection 26:894-902.

Donald, P. A., P.E. Pierson, S.K. St. Martin, P.R. Sellers, G.R. Noel, A.E. MacGuidwin, J. Faghihi, V.R. Ferris, C.R. Grau, D.J. Jardine, H. Melakeberhan, T.L. Niblack, W.C. Stienstra, G.L. Tylka, T. A. Wheeler, and D.S. Wysong (2006).  Assessing Heterodera glycines-resistant and susceptible cultivar yield response. Journal of Nematology, 38: 76-82.

Melakeberhan, H. (2006).  Fertiliser use efficiency of soybean cultivars infected with Meloidogyne incognita and Pratylenchus penetransNematology, 8: 129-137.

Click here for an extended list of publications

Outreach Special

Nematology Links

The WORMS will be swarming at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center (July 19-24, 2015)

More details will come soon.

For further information, please contact:
Dr. Haddish Melakeberhan
SON 2015 Local Arrangements Chair

Maps of MSU and East Lansing:

External Nematology Links: