Soybean Cyst Nematode (SCN) is currently the No. 1 disease-plaguing Illinois’ soybean growers, costing more than $250 million per year and occurring in 80% of Illinois’ soybean fields. Adding to the problem is the fact that many growers have no longer been testing for SCN, and old methods of management have become ineffective as the pest has adapted to resistant soybean varieties.

"Several years ago, we launched a regional campaign aimed at soybean producers that was intended to encourage them to test to find out if they had SCN," Terry Niblack, University of Illinois extension nematologist, says. "The result was a great success because farmers began testing and planting resistant varieties to combat the pest. However, only 10% of soybean producers now test for SCN. Now the disease has become so prevalent that farmers should assume they have it."

The "invisible" SCN can stunt root, disrupt food and water uptake, and slow growth of nitrogen-fixing nodules in soybean crops - all which may reduce yield. That's why University of Illinois researchers have indicated that farmers should rotate SCN-resistant soybean varieties and make sure to switch sources of genetic resistance to manage the problem, thereby protecting yield potential and maximizing profit.

They recommend these guidelines: 1) If a field has not been tested for SCN, test it; 2) If a field has SCN, monitor growing plants and resulting yields; 3) Test again for SCN levels in the fall, and 4) If resistant varieties are used, don't use the same one in the next rotation. Farmers are also encouraged to ask seed companies what their resistance source is or check vipsoybeans.org for more information.

The theme of the new campaign is "ROTATE - Your Best Defense Against SCN."

The Illinois Soybean Checkoff Board is made up of 18 volunteer farmer-leaders who direct the funding of programs that enhance demand and market viability of soybeans. Research is one of the program areas and includes projects to find new uses for soybeans, develop information tools for producers, advance genetic improvements for soybeans, improve soybean disease resistance and optimize soybean yields. For more information or a free SCN Pocket Guide, call 1-888-826-4011.