STARKVILLE — Farmers have battled the yield-robbing soybean cyst nematode (SCN) for decades, but they may soon have the tools to detect a SCN infestation faster than ever.
Vincent Klink, Ph.D., with the Mississippi State University Department of Biological Sciences has been funded by the Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board to research new methods to provide an accurate, rapid assessment of SCN presence, race and level of infestation in soybean fields.
Jimmy Sneed, MSPB chairman and soybean farmer from Hernando, said, “The Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board is very optimistic that Dr. Klink’s research will give producers another tool for managing this pest more timely and effectively. The accuracy in determining the level of infestation is particularly useful in evaluating the pest management options.”
Soybean farmers can manage SCN by rotating with non-host crops like corn, or by selecting a variety with resistance to the SCN population found in each field. Researchers encourage farmers to use soil tests, which cost about $100 per field, to determine which SCN-resistant variety to use based on the race of SCN present in the field. Not testing for SCN can result in yield loss if the soybean variety planted was ineffective in avoiding damage from that specific SCN population. Yield losses caused by SCN range from 100 million to 150 million bushels annually across the United States.
Previous efforts to mitigate the yield-robbing effects of SCN have been successful; however, the pest remains present in a majority of soils used for soybean production in Mississippi. Currently, SCN infests at least one million acres of farmland in Mississippi. Farmers must take soil samples for analysis because symptoms rarely, if ever, can be seen aboveground. Soil analysis potentially takes days to weeks to get results. However, Klink’s test could be used for on-site testing of soil samples, offering farmers accurate results in as little as just a few days.
“The data will allow farmers to determine what soybean varieties they should purchase prior to planting because they will know if SCN is in the soil,” said Klink. “The benefit is that it can be done in a week, rather than over 100 days for conventional testing.”
According to Klink, the adaptable procedure could potentially help determine the same information for other nematode species such as root knot and reniform nematode that has or may become problematic for Mississippi soybean farmers.