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New Technology For Managing Nematodes

Soybean cyst nematode (SCN) is the most economically damaging pest to soybean in the US. There has been a constant battle for decades to reduce the damage caused by this pest, and this battle has been waged successfully by developing and using resistant varieties and by rotating with nonhost crops. Despite these efforts to mitigate the damaging effects of SCN, however, the pest is still present in a majority of soils used for soybean production.

The biggest challenge facing soybean producers is that SCN can impact yield with no or few visible aboveground symptoms. Producers must take soil samples for analysis to determine the presence, type, and density of the pathogen. This is a labor-intensive, time-consuming process, and getting results can take days to weeks.

There are 16 races of SCN. This genetic variation complicates control measures because varieties with resistance to specific races of SCN may not be resistant to the race or races present in a production field. Thus, race determination is an important component of testing for SCN.

The Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board is funding a research project that may simplify the methodology for detecting SCN presence and infestation level. Dr. Vincent Klink of the Mississippi State University Department of Biological Sciences is in the early stages of developing a rapid genetic field race test that can be used for on-site testing of soil samples, and that may reduce the time required for determining the presence and infestation level SCN.

Preliminary results indicate this test, which uses DNA and molecular diagnostics, can:

  • Identify SCN presence, races, and density

  • Distinguish among nematode species (SCN, root knot, and reniform) present in soil samples

  • Identify the presence of a single nematode in a sample because of its sensitivity, and

  • Provide results in only a few days.

The successful completion of this basic research will provide real benefits to Mississippi farmers by providing an accurate, rapid assessment of SCN presence and level of infestation in soybean fields. Also, the procedure is adaptable for determining the same information for other nematode species such as root knot and reniform that have or may become problematic for Mississippi soybean farmers.

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I thank Dr. Vincent Klink for reviewing this article.