Soybean cyst nematode (SCN), a destructive pest of soybeans, can be found in nearly every Ohio county. A farmer may have it and not know it, and for those who know their fields are infested, proper management is crucial. In either situation, producers can look to the Soybean Cyst Nematode Management Guide for assistance.

The 5th edition publication, produced by the North Central Soybean Research Program and the Plant Health Initiative, is a comprehensive guide to SCN and how to manage it. The 16-page color publication covers the importance of SCN, what the pest is, how it affects soybeans, how it interacts with other diseases, what damage looks like, how to send in soil samples, a description of SCN biotypes and recommendations for managing SCN.

Deemed the "silent robber of yields," SCN is the second most common soybean pest in Ohio, behind Phytophthora sojae, which causes Phytophthora root rot. Soybean cyst nematodes feed on the roots of young plants, which prevents the roots from taking up vital nutrients. The result is a drop in yields and subsequent economic losses.

Anne Dorrance, an Ohio State University Extension plant pathologist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, says that the best way to control SCN once a farmer knows it’s in his field is to rotate.

"Rotate nonhost crops to reduce SCN numbers. Rotate resistant varieties to reduce yield losses. Rotate, rotate, rotate," she says. "Keep the pest guessing. Don't give it a chance to get a foothold in your field. Once it’s there, it cannot be eliminated from a field, but growers can take steps to keep their crop profitable."

One method is to sample soil in soybean fields in the fall, right after harvest. Sampling fields that growers know are infested can help keep track of pest numbers and help growers determine the best management practices for that field. The SCN Management Guide provides detailed information on how to soil sample and the procedure for collecting soil samples.

Other management practices include maintaining adequate soil fertility, irrigating if possible and controlling weeds, diseases and other insects.

Dorrance says that managing SCN can aid in managing diseases that can affect crop production and limit yields. One such disease is sudden death syndrome.

"The presence of SCN seems to favor the expression of sudden death syndrome," says Dorrance. "Whenever SCN is present, symptoms of sudden death syndrome seem to be more severe."

Keeping track of SCN infestations and knowing what to do to manage the pest can give growers the best chances for improving their bottom line, said Dorrance.

Soybean cyst nematode is considered the most destructive pathogen of soybean in North America. Infestations have been identified throughout the Midwest, South and Mid-Atlantic states. Between 2003 and 2005, soybean producers lost more than 300 million bushels to SCN.

You can download a PDF copy of the Soybean Cyst Nematode Management Guide online.

The publication was funded through the soybean checkoff and produced through researcher contributions at The Ohio State University, Southern Illinois University, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin, Purdue University, University of Nebraska, University of Kentucky, Kansas State University, North Dakota State University, South Dakota State University, University of Missouri, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, and Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada.