(The Center Square) – A pest that is making headway throughout the Midwest is causing concern among soybean farmers in Illinois.
The Soybean Cyst Nematode was first detected in Illinois soybean fields in the 1970s. The worm sucks the nutrients out of the soybean plant, causing more than $1 billion in soybean yield losses each year in the U.S.
“Soybean Cyst Nematodes actually attack the plant roots, and what happens is that it inhibits the actual nutrient outtake and that in turn causes major yield loss,” agronomist Stephanie Porter with the Illinois Soybean Association said.
The pest normally thrives in hot, dry weather, which is what the 2023 growing season experienced in Illinois. As a result, the nematode most likely populated and produced a lot of eggs, which could affect soybean yields.
Porter said one way to combat the pest is to plant other crops in soybean fields.
“We use nonhost crop rotation, which is a corn-soybean rotation, so if we have multiple years of corn, that causes a decline in Soybean Cyst Nematodes,” Porter nsaid.
Nonhost crops are crops that cannot support a specific pest or pests of dry beans.
A new study finds that one type of fungi can cut the nematodes’ reproductive success by more than half. Researchers at the University of Illinois inoculated young soybean plants with fungi and SCN in greenhouse experiments. By the end of the experiment, all five fungal species had reduced the number of SCN cysts in the roots.
Although the news is encouraging, the Illinois Soybean Association is trying to stay ahead in the SCN battle. Porter notes that there are free SCN egg counts and soil sampling for Illinois farmers, which is funded by the Illinois Soybean Association Checkoff Program. That program has farmers invest 0.5% of the net market price for each bushel they sell, according to the association.
Illinois is the top soybean producing state in the country, with over 677 million bushels produced in 2022.