Pat Staloch knew he had soybean cyst nematode (SCN). He confirmed that several years ago in one small area. But he thought numbers were still low.
This Hartland, MN, grower switched to sweet corn in that small area where beans weren't doing well and soil tests confirmed SCN. He figured the pest had spread, but that numbers were still low enough not to damage yields.
Then Staloch read Soybean Digest's Special Report on the "Nematode War" last August. He decided he'd better soil sample some fields after harvest. He also thought he had a bumper crop coming on.
He headed to the first fields with big hopes. The anticipated high yields just weren't there. He reread the Special Report, prompting him to sample all his fields.
"We knew we had some nematode pressure, but the results were shocking," Staloch admits. "In some of those poor-looking spots we sampled, the egg counts were astronomical. I'm sure it was costing us 10-15 bu/acre in those areas."
This year, Staloch has SCN-resistant varieties in all fields with high SCN egg counts.
Rod Pierce, Woodward, IA, had some fields that weren't yielding up with others. Having read articles on the SCN problem, he had John Creswell, an Iowa State University extension agronomist, set up a replicated test plot. He used resistant vs. susceptible varieties with similar genetics, sampling the area before the test.
The result? "The thing that surprised me was that, with no obvious above-ground symptoms, the resistant variety yielded 11.6 bu/acre higher than the susceptible variety. We pulled soil samples again at harvest.
"The resistant variety also kept my egg count numbers down significantly," Pierce reports. "I went with 100% resistant varieties this year. I think virtually every soybean farmer around here has SCN and should test for it."
Brian Hieser, a Minier, IL, grower who is also chairman of the North Central Soybean Research Program, spotted some slightly shorter but otherwise good-looking beans in an area that had a pond on it in the early season of '93. He suspected phytophthora root rot, but pulled some plants. The roots were loaded with cysts.
"I'd been through the University of Illinois' crop scouting school, and I knew what I had," Hieser recalls. "I now have all of my fields under a cyst management plan."
Hieser passionately urges soybean growers to test for SCN anytime - but especially with today's rock-bottom prices.
"In a lot of cases," Hieser points out, "SCN is the difference between a farmer making a profit or just breaking even, or even losing money under the current low-price situation."