"Take the test. Beat the pest." That's the battle cry of a 10-state farmer educational project called the Soybean Cyst Nematode Coalition, to be launched very soon.

Burn those challenge words into your mind. You'll hear a lot about them in the next year, promise coalition leaders.

The massive assault on soybean cyst nematode (SCN), the single largest profit stealer in U.S. soybean production, is being largely underwritten by the North Central Soybean Research Program. That's an alliance created by 10 state checkoff boards.

The historic assault is being launched partly out of frustration, according to scientists and other coalition leaders.

The frustration: Scientists have proved with solid research that SCN is siphoning off significant soybean yields, and the majority of growers don't even know it.

Worse yet, lament these coalition leaders, some growers realize they have SCN and won't admit it.

As a precursor to the coalition formation, scientists and other cooperators did a benchmark survey to determine what knowledge farmers currently had about SCN.

The telephone survey, with calls lasting 25 to 30 minutes, covered nearly 1,000 soybean growers - 976 to be exact - from those 10 North Central states.

To compare possible regional differences in the knowledge level, growers from North Carolina, Arkansas and Kentucky also were interviewed. That brought the total survey sample to 1,325 soybean growers.

The results: both shocking and disappointing.

* Most soybean growers know little about SCN.

* Half of the growers surveyed believe SCN is not important.

* A whopping 65% of growers surveyed have not tested for SCN.

* Those who don't test for SCN don't think they have a problem.

Scientists have long preached that, when SCN symptoms appear on plant foliage, you are definitely taking a yield hit. But their message now is that you could be losing significant yield without seeing any above-ground symptoms.

"This whole idea of having significant yield loss without seeing any above-ground symptoms is a concept that obviously hasn't been getting through to growers and needs to be pushed," asserts Greg Tylka, Iowa State University nematologist and coalition leader for the scientists cooperating in the regional effort.

Besides scientists at each of the North Central universities, state checkoff boards, representatives from seed companies, farm cooperatives, private ag companies, crop consulting firms and agricultural media will participate.

Extension scientists, leader-type farmers and company representatives will be involved in the regional umbrella program. And state soybean checkoff boards and other state leaders may add to or modify state programs to more effectively serve their state situations.