Soil Fertility Important in Managing Soybean Cyst Nematode

Soybean cyst nematode (SCN) can wreak havoc on a soybean field, causing yield losses as high as 75 percent, and costing millions of dollars in lost commodity. The parasite infects the roots of soybean plants, suppressing root and plant growth. And once found in a field, SCN is nearly impossible to eliminate.

However, if your field has been infested with SCN, there are some management practices you can implement to help your soybean plants better withstand and tolerate the damage SCN can do. While soybean cyst nematode–resistant varieties are available, research has shown that the parasite can reproduce on these ‘resistant’ varieties. And if resistant varieties are grown repeatedly, the SCN population will be able to reproduce. There are also nematicides available on the market, which can prove beneficial at planting, but generally do not offer control throughout the growing season.

Balanced management of crop nutrition can also help limit the effects of SCN.  While all three major nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) are needed for soybean health, potassium is critically needed to reduce nematode feeding. Potassium helps develop cell wall structure, and plants receiving the needed amounts of potassium have thicker cell walls with increased stability. It also helps to minimize stress in plants. Soil fertility plans should include the necessary levels of potassium in SCN-infested fields. 

Soybean cyst nematode is found in most, if not all, of the soybean-producing areas of the United States. Once it is found, it cannot be eradicated from fields. Because of its propensity to weaken a soybean plant, damage from other diseases (such as sudden death syndrome) increases in fields with SCN infestation. The parasite can also host on other root systems, particularly those of weeds.

These challenges underline the importance of a proactive approach to soil fertility to minimize the impact of SCN. With ample availability of key nutrients, soybean plants are stronger from day one, and can better withstand the stress of soybean cyst nematode throughout the growing season.

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