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Sudden death syndrome flaring up

Agriculture.com Staff 08/25/2009 @ 2:49pm

It's been the coolest summer ever in some parts of the Midwest. And, a cool summer usually means a lot of sudden death syndrome (SDS) in soybeans. This summer's no exception.

Farmers, crop advisers and Extension specialists are finding "widespread occurrences" of SDS from Nebraska to Tennessee, especially where temperatures have been cooler than normal.

"SDS is terrible here in south-central Tennessee. My mid-group 4s have been overtaken by it," says Agriculture.com Crop Talk member cotncrzy. "They once had potential for 60+ bushels, now I don't know. Never had this problem to this extent."

As of last week, on top of already high levels in the eastern and southern Corn Belt, SDS was confirmed in half a dozen counties in Nebraska and specialists speculate that's not the extent of the infection in the state.

"This outbreak appears to be more widespread than in any year since it was first confirmed in Nebraska in 2004," says University of Nebraska Extension plant pathologist Loren Giesler. "Most affected fields have small areas with the disease and large areas that are not being impacted."

Cooler, wet soils are most prone to SDS infection, which is affecting some central Iowa fields at levels of 75% or greater in the last week, Iowa State University (ISU) Extension specialists report. "The SDS reports this year are unlike other years," says ISU plant pathologist X. B. Yang.

But, it's not just weather conditions that can spawn greater SDS issues; Yang says compaction can be a SDS booster, while other management practices have inadvertently laid solid groundwork for the disease, adds Giesler.

"The weather pattern we have had this year is very conducive to SDS as we had moisture early season and at the early reproductive stages," he says. "In addition, many producers are adapting earlier planting strategies which favor SDS development. Soil compaction and high fertility levels also have been associated with increased levels of SDS."

Sudden death syndrome's spread has been moved along by other practices over the years that will need change in the future if farmers are to cut the disease's future short.

"Seems like we've gone all corn to a corn-soybean rotation and haven't kept some wheat or corn-on-corn in it," says Crop Talk member Pupdaddy. "I suppose if you planted corn 2 years in a row followed by a cyst nematode-resistant bean, then wheat, with another 2 years of corn after that, you might lower your populations some. But, it's one of those things where we spent a long time building the problem; it will be a long time correcting it."

In the near term, though, keeping a close eye on where you have SDS -- which causes yellowing and premature leaf-drop -- is the best way to start on a course of action toward controlling the disease next year, says Marysville, Ohio, certified crop adviser and Agriculture.com Crop Tech Tour correspondent Travis Rowe. That will start with your crop rotation.

"From a management perspective, there is very little that we can do at this time," he says. "However, we need to be sure to identify the fields and varieties that are showing symptoms this year so we can make better management decisions the next time these fields are rotated to soybeans."

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It's been the coolest summer ever in some parts of the Midwest. And, a cool summer usually means a lot of sudden death syndrome (SDS) in soybeans. This summer's no exception.

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