The Destructive Micro Worm

by Gary Klopfenstein, Sustainable Plant Systems major

The soybean cyst nematode is a destructive invasive species that damages soybean production, making proper management of the agricultural production ground vital for protection against this yield-reducing pest. In 1954 nematodes were first reported in the United States. In 2005-2008 it was estimated that soybean cyst nematodes (SCN) account for > 300 million bushels lost and farmers can have fields with up to 40% damage due to SCN (Soybean Cyst Nematode Management Guide).

This disease is a deadly pathogen that is very important to the United States agriculture industry. It has been in the United States for 61 years and in that amount of time it has spread across the country. It is now in more than 20 states and is continuing to spread (SCN expands range in Ohio).

Proper management is important in agriculture and at times the effort might be considered a burden or takes too much additional time. That mentality being the case,  the correct management is ignored until there is a massive problem. When it comes to the agriculture industry, after having Roundup Ready to take care of all their weed issues, it was simple to just spray a chemical and watch the weeds die and the yield rise. This is not the case when dealing with SCN, there is no cheap chemical that will kill them.

The first step is pulling a soil sample after soybean harvest, send the samples to the lab to see how many nematodes and cysts are in the samples. > More on sampling

Once the SCN are confirmed in a field, it is the farmer’s job to monitor the populations by doing yearly soil sample tests. Crop rotation is critical to slowing down the rate of growth in areas of SCN inhabitance. Understanding that they can live off of legume plants, planting the right cover crops in the fall is a great idea for soil structure. A successful management plan of planting one to two years of planting non-host plants will lessen the SCN populations because the nematodes are an obligate parasite and need host root hairs to survive. There are also genetic soybean cultivars that are resistant to SCN and can prevent the yield from being destroyed.

Davis, E.L. and Tylka, G.L. Soybean cyst nematode disease

Dorrance A, Sundermeier A, Harrison K, Niblack T.  > Cover Crops and Soybean Cyst Nematode.  C.O.R.N. Newsletter

This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

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