Leaders of In-Furrow Technology (LIFT) Agriculture Blog
Leaders of In-Furrow Technology (LIFT) is your go-to source for in-furrow information and trends, brought to you by West Central. The LIFT Agriculture Blog keeps you up to date on the latest about in-furrow technology and its benefits.
Key representatives from the Leaders in Farming Technology (LIFT) partnership gathered in Champaign, Illinois for the fifth annual LIFT Media Summit on June 25-26, 2019.
Media attendees came from agricultural groups across the U.S. and were given an exclusive look at the University of Illinois Crop Physiology Lab’s research plots, which aim to increase corn yields through better plant nutrition and management, narrower rows and higher plant populations. Dr. Fred Below, the leading crop physiology researcher at the University of Illinois, and his graduate students were on hand to share research results.
Attendees also spoke to industry experts about new developments in agricultural technologies. Representative from the LIFT partners, including West Central Distribution, Corteva Agriscience, Nufarm, Valent USA and Vive Crop Protection, showcased their latest product research.
Agriculture media attendees included: Thomas Skernivitz with CropLIfe, Tom Steever with Brownfield Ag News, Austin Keating with Prairie Farmer and representing the Farm Progress publications, Julie Deering with SeedWorld, Phyllis Coulter with Illinois Farmer Today and Jeannine Otto with Illinois AgriNews, representing the AgriNews publications.
The Quest for High Yield Corn
Dr. Below kicked off the event with a look at his research into seven factors that have changed corn yields in the last 50 years. Those factors are:
Corn hybrid choice
Previous crop planted
Dr. Below reviewed several factors that growers can influence, including plant populations per acre. In the last 50 years, Dr. Below shared that plant density has gone from 20,000 plants per acre to 32,000 plants per acre, and it only continues to go up. “In fact, plant populations have been increasing about 400 plants per acre per year,” he adds. “However, research also clearly shows that the top end number for plants in 30-inch rows is 38,000 plants per acre, which we’ll reach within the next 15 years.”
Dr. Below believes that the future of corn is planting narrower, 20-inch rows, which can manage higher plant densities, but also requires more targeted and intentional plant nutritional management.
Dr. Below concluded his presentation saying, “to continue our yield trajectory we need to grow more plants, but that will require narrower rows, better plant nutrition and better hybrids.”
On June 26, attendees headed to the research plots at the University of Illinois to view the 2019 LIFT plots, and heard from graduate Ph.D students on their current research:
Connor Sible, focusing on how biologicals influence plant growth processes
Eric Winans, focusing on the need for narrower rows and nitrogen management
Scott Foxhoven, focusing on new premium fertilizers and the next level of fertilizer use
Watch for more in-depth blog posts on targeted plant nutrition and research summaries from the University of Illinois.
Season Long Agronomics with West Central
The second half of the event focused on opportunities within the growing season, from pre-planting, to late season interventions, that influence plant growth.Travis Palmquist, Seed Improvement Specialist, with West Central, introduced the pre-planting opportunities to prevent two early growing-season diseases. Pythium, which likes cold, wet soil and can attack a seed less than 1.5 hours after planting. Phytophthora thrives in warm and compacted soil and can be mistaken for herbicide damage.
“Pythium and Phytophthora account for 50 to 60 percent of the problems you see out in the fields,” Palmquist says. “Seed treatments, like Halifax® FnI contains two fungicides and an insecticide to provide broader coverage for these soil-borne diseases. It also includes a PGR, Cygin®, within the seed treatment blends to help promote root growth and nodule development.”
Palmquist discussed other soil-borne diseases like Fusarium and Rhizoctonia, which also cause damages if left untreated. LIFT partners Nufarm, Vive and Valent also offer solutions for controlling soil-borne disease. Watch the blog for more information on these diseases and protections growers can take to prevent them.
Corey Klaphake, Technical Specialist, with West Central, discussed planting opportunities for growers to manage nutrient applications, including nitrogen and phosphorus. Growers face several challenges when applying nutrients to crops – they are expensive, nutrient use efficiency is low, especially phosphorus, and growers are facing more environmental regulations.
Klaphake took the question ‘how can we better manage crop nutrients?’ “Using nutrient enhancement products at or near planting can help the crop better manage nutrient absorption,” he says. “I recommend chelation technology. The right chelate overcomes the ion bonds in the soil to keep micronutrients soluble, which in turn, allows phosphorus to also remain more available.”
Klaphake also discussed how enzymes are playing a role in nutrient management. Watch the blog for information on the work West Central is doing with phosphate enzymes.
And, finally, Matt Pauli, Technical Specialist with West Central, discussed management considerations for hard to control weeds. Waterhemp, marestail, and giant ragweed are all showing signs of herbicide resistance. Pauli recommends using a high-efficiency adjuvant, like Last Chance™, with the herbicide, to target tough weeds. Last Chance can be used in pre- or post-season burndown, or late in the season as a rescue treatment.
“Adding Last Chance to the herbicide application helps improve herbicide coverage, retention and absorption,” he adds. And, it is approved for use in most major herbicides, including Enlist™ One from Corteva Agriscience.
Pauli also discussed the wet conditions and delayed planting across much of the U.S. Watch for tips on how to maximize yield potential when crops are planted late in an upcoming blog.
LIFT Partner Interviews
In addition to the presentations, media guests had an opportunity to interview the LIFT partners on the latest trends and technology by leading agriculture companies, including:
Determining the Optimum Seed Treatment Solution for Nematodes
Tom Kroll, Nufarm
Brandon Scott, Nufarm
Focusing on Fertilizer Compatibility
Arlene Warner, Vive Crop Protection
Julia Engler, Vive Crop Protection
Vicki Dekkers, Vive Crop Protection
Nitrogen Maximizers: How to Maximize your ROI Through Stabilization
Nate Wyss, Corteva Agriscience
Shawna Hubbard, Corteva Agriscience
How Corn Rootworm Damages Corn and Management Tips for Combating it
Lori Dekan, Valent
Special thanks to all the LIFT partners and ag media guests who attended the event and helped us share the great stories about the innovations in farming technology.
The goal for today’s alfalfa grower is to get the most out of every acre by maintaining a healthy stand and maximizing yield and quality. However, some diseases can prove challenging to reach those goals. Alfalfa diseases like leaf spots and stem diseases can cause a loss of lower leaves that directly correlate to reduced yield and quality.
There are about 18 million acres of alfalfa and many of them receive one or more fungicide applications per year. By using a strobilurin fungicide like AZteroid FC 3.3 from Vive Crop Protection, alfalfa growers have earned higher yield, increased retention of lower leaves, quicker green up following a cutting, higher stem counts and increased longevity from a planting.
The benefits of strobilurin fungicides are documented in a 5-year study conducted by Iowa State University (2012-2016). The study showed a positive economic response to fungicide applications every time it was applied to first cutting.
Over the five years, alfalfa yield increased by an average of 9.7 percent for the first cutting. Fluctuation did happen throughout the study with some years being higher than others. This was attributed to increased disease pressure in some years which helped the fungicide perform to its fullest potential compared to untreated.
The Health Benefit of AZteroid FC 3.3
Unlike other strobilurin fungicides, AZteroid FC 3.3 is systemic in the plant. This provides better long-term benefit by protecting new growth from disease. The active ingredient powering AZteroid FC 3.3, azoxystrobin, has proven plant health benefits such as increased leaf retention, quicker green up and higher stem counts.
Compared to other strobilurin on the market, AZteroid FC 3.3 mixes more seamlessly with fertilizers, integrating easily into a foliar feeding program so alfalfa growers can get the benefits of both a systemic fungicide and fertilizer in the same application. It also mixes well with hard water and insecticides. But keep in mind that a jar test is always recommended.
How AZteroid FC 3.3 works to improve plant health
Increased drought tolerance by lowering transpiration rates in the plant
Plants stay greener longer due to decreased ethylene production, enhancing plant growth and leaf retention.
Increase nitrogen use efficiency by increasing nitrate reductase which make nitrates more readily available for plants to use to produce essential proteins
Improved CO2 efficiency results in increased photosynthesis
AZteroid FC 3.3 should be applied at 6-8” of growth at a rate of 4 fl. oz/ac. and a 14-day pre-harvest interval. Always follow label directions carefully.
The AZteroid FC 3.3 Difference
Alfalfa grower Chay Yund was going to plow up many fields of alfalfa in 2018 because of winterkill. Instead, he decided to use AZteroid FC 3.3 in a “Hail Mary” attempt to keep his stand alive.
He said, “Oh man, plowing it up would have been a huge mistake. I had the best crop in the worst year on record.”
Hear his story:
Chay Yund Alfalfa Grower talks about AZteroid FC - YouTube
No matter how hard you try, you can’t control everything around you. Challenges like drought or flooding are impossible to control and can cause residual issues if left unchecked. While there is no magic eight ball to tell the future, there are tools growers can utilize to tackle challenges like tough weather conditions, mineral toxicity and salinity, which can all cause abiotic stress and yield loss in crops.
Each year, the signs of abiotic stress can be seen in fields across the U.S. If left untreated, abiotic stressors can cause up to 50 percent growth reduction in most plant species. When a field is impacted by abiotic stress, quick action is essential.
“Weather isn’t always on our side and, without fail, nearly every acre we walk through is affected by abiotic stressors at some point in the year,” said Steve Carlsen, Levesol and Crop Enhancement Portfolio Manager for West Central Distribution. “When it comes to water stress, the impact can be seen multiple times throughout the season in a field, leading to a 5-10 percent decrease in yield. That decrease can mean a $30-50 loss per acre.”
What is Abiotic Stress?
Abiotic stress in plants is caused by a combination of conditions. These range from water deficiencies caused by drought, excessive water caused by water logging or flooding, extreme conditions including cold, frost and heat, salinity and mineral toxicity. Whether these conditions strike a field individually or together, they can negatively impact growth, development, seed quality and yield.
When faced with abiotic stress, a plant’s first line of defense is its root system. Because the roots move water, minerals and nutrients into the plant, if the roots are struggling to find those resources, low yields can occur. To ensure the plant’s roots are grown to their full potential, a crop enhancement product can be applied.
Crop Enhancement Products Help Crops Thrive
While we can’t control the weather crop enhancements can help leverage or manage the impacts they can have on a crop. There are two types of crop enhancement products that can help growers stimulate plant growth during temperature extremes: plant growth regulators, often called by their acronym PGRs, and biological enzymes.
PGRs are plant hormones that help regulate growth and development. Using PGRs can help plant thrive during optimal growing conditions and through tougher weather conditions as well.
PGRs can be applied several times during the growing season, depending on the product label. There are benefits to applying them both in-furrow, or later in the growing cycle as foliar applications. Some of them also have the option to be added as a seed treatment, benefiting seed germination.
Biological enzymes can help plants survive in periods of water-related stress. Different enzymes offer unique modes of action, helping plants retain water in their cells, stabilize the protein structures and regulate the opening and closing of the stoma.
Choosing the Right Crop Enhancement Product
Choose the right crop enhancement product to best suit each individual situation. West Central Distribution offers a unique package of crop enhancement products in their portfolio: Cygin™ is a PGR designed to increase plant performance. Revival™ is a combination of enzymes that help plants survive in periods of water related stress.
Cygin is a naturally-derived plant PGR that growers can lean on during extreme temperature situations. Cygin is approved for use in eight crops, including corn, soybeans, sugar beets and wheat. It is designed to increase plant performance by incorporating three types of PGRs, cytokinin, auxin and gibberellic acid, which are all geared toward maximum plant productivity.Cytokinin is a natural plant growth regulator and promotes cell division and leaf expansion. Auxins promotescell elongation and are synthesized in the roots and stems of a plant. They are most effective when combined with cytokinins. Gibberellic acids stimulate cell division and help leaves and stems elongate and flower.Cygin is approved for three types of application, depending on the crop, including seed treatment, in-furrow and foliar applications. When applied correctly, Cygin will help increase internal plant functions and improve nutrient movement, allowing for better plant performance. It also influences the growth and development of plant roots, cells, tissues and organs.
Revival is a foliar-applied, combination of enzymes that help plants survive in periods of water-related stress, extreme temperatures and UV light stress. When applied to a plant, Revival will stimulate the plant to product stress-reducing molecules to prevent wasting precious plant resources in times when the corn or soybean plant is in “survival mode.” Its unique combination of small molecules and enzymes allows Revival to help a plant stabilize proteins, retain moisture and allow water movement between plant cells, keeping it where it is most needed.
“Abiotic stress is such a common challenge for growers,” Carlsen says. “By utilizing products like Cygin or Revival, growers can better manage water stress or other in-season stress conditions.”
To learn more about Cygin or Revival, speak to your local retailer.
According to Forbes magazine, agriculture is a growing industry currently estimated at $7.8 trillion. As pressure on farmers to deliver goods to an ever-growing population increases, so does that need for finding new ways to grow efficiency and to expand yield capabilities. To help growers and retailers reach their goals, the Leaders in Farming Technology (LIFT) program, formerly Leaders of In-Furrow Technology, has expanded its offerings to introduce audiences to updates in technology and identifying best practices.
Through this program, farmers and retailers have access through the blog on insights for reducing variables within the growing season and how to unlock a plant’s genetic potential and increase yields.
Expanding Its Reach
The LIFT program was introduced in 2014 and primarily focused on the yield benefits of in-furrow application, the integration of fertilization and planting with the consolidation of seed, fungicide and even insecticide treatments in one system. Current LIFT partners include Corteva Agrisciences, Nufarm, Valent U.S.A. and Vive Crop Protection.
“Increased productivity is essential to agriculture, especially with the lower commodity prices we regularly face. Our goal is to share these innovative profit opportunities for growers and retailers to expand their business,” Dean Hendrickson, vice president of marketing for West Central says.
To better broach these opportunities, the LIFT program is expanding to cover a broader range of farming technologies and products. The goal of this expansion is to help retailers and farmers stay up to date on topics and products that can truly benefit their bottom line. By combining with leading agricultural companies, the LIFT program will feature voices who are though leaders in the industry.
Staying Up to Date
In addition to visiting the blog, farmers and retailers can stay up to date with helpful information from the LIFT partners and industry updates by signing up for the twice monthly eNewsletter.
To learn more about LIFT and the partners bringing cutting edge products and services, sign up for the eNewsletter and visit the new blog at www.inthefurrow.com.
ROI is never far from a grower’s mind, and two factors to consider for reaching profit goals are strong root development and weed control. To help growers in both areas, West Central developed starter fertilizer Paralign™, helping increase nutrient uptake, and adjuvant Last Chance™, which has shown to increase efficacy of herbicides.
Paralign: Dual Action Chemistries
“At West Central we are always looking for new ways to make a grower’s job easier. And with more growers planting earlier, and the need for better nutrient uptake, we knew there needed to be a way to continue to advance starter fertilizers,” said Brian Kuehl, Director of Product Development with West Central.
Working quietly under the soil, starter fertilizers ensure that seeds have access to readily available nutrients needed to develop strong roots faster. By helping plants use nutrients in the soil to their full potential, starter fertilizers give crops a stronger start, especially during variable spring conditions.
Paralign is a 5-15-3 fertilizer with 0.8 percent chelated zinc. This product also contains right ratio of two of the most important nutrient components in starter fertilizers (N and P), 1:3 ratio of nitrogen to phosphorus is crucial for phenological transition from vegetative to reproductive state. Also, this ratio has been shown to be optimal for early growth and product stability. Research has shown that sometimes deficiency symptoms can appear not from a lack of nutrients, but rather by not having the right ration with other nutrients.
The two unique modes of actions making up Paralign are ortho-ortho EDDHA (Levesol® chelate) and the enzyme hemicellulase. The Levesol chelate increases the amount of phosphorus available by ensuring the element does not combine with positively charged soil components. The hemicellulsae enzyme benefits the crops by catalyzing the reaction that converts organic matter into simple sugars, nitrate, phosphorus, potassium and micronutrients.
Last Chance: Improving an Herbicide’s Efficacy
Finding more efficient ways to tackle weeds is essential for growers. To help herbicides work better, West Central launched Last Chance. Last Chance is formulated with an AMS-FREE water conditioner, which helps to prevent the loss of active ingredient efficacy that can occur when the mixing water is mineral saturated or of unknown quality.
“Last Chance is designed to significantly increase performance over the standard adjuvant program,” Kuehl said. “It is compatible with a broad range of conventional and traited crops as well as non-crop situations, which makes it an excellent addition to a grower’s tool belt.”
Last Chance can be a strong addition to a crop protection plan utilizing glyphosate. When applied, Last Chance combines with negatively charged glyphosate to increase plant uptake and translocation and prevents glyphosate antagonism. Last Chance also improves coverage, retention and absorption.
To learn more about Paralign and Last Chance, visit www.wcdst.com or talk to your retailer.
Growers are always looking for ways to protect and improve their yield. But the soybean cyst nematode (SCN) is making that difficult for many soybean farmers across the U.S. According to research of soybean variety trials conducted by Iowa State University (ISU), the SCN is adapting and reproducing on the PI 88788 resistance source, which is used in more than 95 percent of soybean varieties. In order to reverse this trend, growers need to create a comprehensive SCN management plan.
For the trial, researchers analyzed 25,000 four-row plots to track changes in SCN population densities and virulence, or the ability to reproduce on a resistance source, and how those changes affect yield. The data analyzed comes from more than 25 years of variety trail experiments which were conducted in Iowa. ISU annually evaluates numerous soybean varieties that contain resistance to SCN for both yield and nematode control.
“Every year, we took soil samples and measured SCN population densities at the beginning and end of each growing season,” said Greg Tylka, Ph.D., ISU nematologist, who led the research. “That information allowed us to calculate a reproductive factor (RF), which is the final SCN egg population density divided by the initial egg population density. We also measured virulence in the spring samples.”
Scientists agree that a resistant variety should not allow more than 10 percent SCN reproduction compared to a susceptible variety. And prior to 2001, nearly all SCN-resistant soybean varieties in the trials held reproduction below 10 percent.
Beginning in 2001, “we started to pick up populations in farmers’ fields that had higher and higher reproduction on PI 88788 resistance,” Tylka adds. “As we went through the 2000s to 2017, we saw the nematode build up the ability to reproduce on resistant soybeans. And the yields in our experiments followed a linear decrease – as much as 14 bushels per acre in fields that had the highest SCN reproduction.”
What Growers Need Now
Unfortunately, soybean farmers are almost completely reliant on the PI 88788 resistance source. According to Tylka, In Iowa, 97 percent of the SCN-resistant soybean varieties available contain PI 88788.
“We have to turn up the volume on the fact that SCN management is becoming more complicated than planting a resistant variety,” Tylka says.
In order to fight SCN, growers need powerful tools added into an integrated pest management program. Aveo® EZ Nematicide from Valent U.S.A. is a biological seed treatment that fights the SCN through its highly-concentrated formulation, which contains more colony forming units per mL than other products.
“In some areas of the U.S., SCN is not perceived as a problem because growers have relied on SCN-resistant soybean varieties,” noted Todd Mayhew, seed protection product development manager at Valent U.S.A. “However, with SCN developing the ability to reproduce on these varieties, an integrated approach, including a nematicide such as Aveo EZ, is vital for effective management.”
As one of the most devastating soil borne problems for soybeans in the U.S., sudden death syndrome (SDS) takes a full management approach to control and prevent. According to the University of Minnesota, SDS can result in yield losses greater than 50 percent when left uncontrolled.
The fungus causing SDS infects seedling roots soon after planting. Above ground symptoms rarely appear before mid-July when the fungus penetrates the plant’s vascular tissue, making detecting SDS before flowering difficult. The fungus produces toxins in the roots that are translocated to the leaves and cause foliar symptoms. The fungus itself does not invade the stems more than a few centimeters above the soil line.
SDS often occurs in fields that are already infested with soybean cyst nematodes (SCN), which are in the same disease complex as SDS. When a field is subjected to both diseases at once, SDS symptoms can hit earlier and harder.
SDS Management Best Practices
Early planting predisposes soybeans to SDS infection. In cool, wet soils, young soybean plants are vulnerable to infection by the SDS causal fungus. A best practice is to avoid early spring planting in soils not favorable for rapid soybean growth. Fields with no history of SDS should be planted first, followed by fields with a history of SDS planted at a later date.
Soybeans are more vulnerable to SDS when fields are already subjected to SCN as they can injure seedling plants, making it easier for SDS to develop. It is recommended to begin SDS management with nematicides active against SCN and/or resistant varieties. Nematicides, including some biological products, should be used before you consider using an additional seed treatment fungicide directed at SDS as fungicides in-furrow or foliar-applied are not effective on SDS.
Resistance management options to control SDS are limited. Although soybean cultivars less susceptible to SDS have been developed, no highly-resistant varieties are currently available. However, growers can have success by starting with a nematicide in combination with a variety that has some level of SDS resistance.
A few technologies are currently available for SDS fungal control. Thiabendazole (TBZ) may also help at high application rates. Work with your agronomist and ag retailer to develop a plan to help manage SDS in your fields.
Key takeaways to consider include planting later to help manage SDS. When that is not an option, use a nematicide alone or in combination with a variety that has some SDS resistance. If the problem is severe, add a fungicide directed at SDS.
Since the introduction of 2,4-D, the first modern herbicide, in the early 1940s, growers have had a powerful weapon to control weeds. Unfortunately, herbicide technology isn’t the only thing that is improving and evolving. Over the years, some weeds have grown resistant to herbicides or show the signs of growing resistance. And while it can be frustrating to see those persistent weeds standing in a field following an herbicide application, it is important to get to the bottom of why the herbicide failed to kill the weeds, and make necessary adjustments going forward.
Application of Best Practices
The burndown timeline for herbicides depends on what was applied. Herbicides like glyphosate or contact herbicides take one to two weeks to kill weeds. Synthetic auxin herbicides, like dicamba, can take two to four weeks for weeds to fully drop off. The effectiveness of the herbicide will depend on a number of factors, including weather, environment and correct application according to the label.
Ideal conditions for herbicide effectiveness include high humidity and temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees. Spraying in dry and hot conditions can lead to spray droplets drying before the chemical is absorbed into the weed. If weeds are exposed to low moisture and humidity for extended periods, it can also reduce absorption if the weeds harden off.
Another consideration is applying herbicides in colder temperatures. Cold can slow weed growth and harden cell walls, decreasing both the herbicide uptake as well as translocation of the herbicide, which reduces overall weed control.
Growers should also ensure they are applying their herbicides using the correct equipment. When applicators go off label, it increases the possibility the application will be ineffective, and can also lead to resistance issues. Factors such as weed size, boom height, spray volume, tank mix partners and nozzle use must all be taken into consideration when applying herbicides.
Solutions for Hard-to-Kill Weeds
When scouting fields this summer, growers should check to see if weeds are still growing a few weeks after an herbicide application. If weeds are continuing to grow, evaluate the factors that may have caused the herbicide to be ineffective. To best evaluate these factors, growers should work with an agronomist to review the situation and determine if it was a case of an application error or weed resistance.
Using multiple modes of action and correct adjuvants can optimize herbicide performance. West Central Distribution offers a high-efficacy adjuvant, Last Chance™, which can increase herbicide efficacy and help prevent escaped weeds.
Last Chance is a surfactant and deposition aid that works to improve herbicide performance by maximizing uniform coverage, increasing wetting and providing strength to penetrate through waxy or weather-hardened cuticles. It is formulated with an AMS-FREE water conditioner which helps to prevent the loss of active ingredient efficacy that can occur when the mixing water is mineral saturated or of unknown quantity.
Last Chance is designed to significantly increase performance over the standard adjuvant program. It is compatible with a broad range of conventional and traited crops as well as non-crop situations. It is also a strong addition to a crop protection plan utilizing glyphosate. When applied, Last Chance combines with negatively charged glyphosate to increase plant uptake and translocation and prevents glyphosate antagonism. Last Chance also improves coverage, retention and absorption.
Proactively Preventing Escaped Weeds
There are multiple ways growers can be proactive about preventing escaped weeds. To best come up with a plan of action, growers can work with agronomists to ensure they are utilizing the right product for their specific situation and that labels are followed correctly. Before applying any product, the label should be diligently read as it provides information optimum application conditions, equipment specs and approved adjuvants to get the most out of the herbicide and produce consistent results.
A helpful tool for preventing escaped weeds is applying a pre-emerge residual herbicide. These herbicides should be utilized in all geographies to take pressure off the post-application. Applying another residual herbicide with your post-application is also recommended to prevent weeds from emerging until canopy closure.
Growers can see an increase in weed control through doing due diligence when it comes time to choosing the best product for their field, following the herbicide label, using tank mix partners to increase efficacy and considering conditions before making applications.
A clean soybean field is something that brings pride to many farmers. Doing everything to keep those rows neat by reducing weed and pest pressure helps ensure a strong harvest. However, even in the cleanest fields, there can be threats to yield below the surface that attack the roots of the plant. With tight margins and commodity prices remaining low, it’s important to identify and address these hidden threats to get the most out of each acre.
Farmers today are using better technologies to improve soybean production and quality. Protecting the plant from unseen threats like soybean cyst nematode (SCN), Pythium and Phytophthora requires a management plan that can help turn yield potential into yield results.
Soybean Cyst Nematode
SCN is present in soybean fields across 30 states and causes about $1.5 billion in economic loss to U.S. soybean farmers annually. This microscopic roundworm is virtually invisible to the naked eye and attacks soybean roots, reducing the plant’s ability to utilize nutrients. SCN females form cysts after completing their life cycle, and these cysts contain eggs. When eggs hatch, the worm-shaped juveniles immediately seek to enter plant roots and begin feeding.
“After penetrating the soybean roots, juveniles move through the root until they contact vascular tissue in the center of the root,” said Greg Tylka, professor of plant pathology, Iowa State University Extension. “There, they stop and start to feed. The nematode injects secretions that modify soybean root cells. This turns them into specialized feeding cells for the nematode.”
SCN can go through three to five generations per season, each able to damage root systems. Affected plants cannot use nutrients and water efficiently, resulting in stunted plants with chlorotic foliage, nodule reduction and fewer nitrogen-fixing bacteria. SCN can be hard to detect. If there are low SCN populations, aboveground symptoms may not be present, and crops may appear normal. As SCN numbers increase, plants may begin to show physical symptoms and yield impact will increase.
Pythium, Phytophthora and SCN infestations can eat away at soybean yields and margins. SCN damage can reduce a would-be bumper crop significantly depending on the severity of infestation. As an example, a moderate infestation that reduced yields by 10 percent in a 50-bushel acre would translate to a 5-bushel loss. With soybean prices at $9 to $10 per bushel, that’s $40 to $50 in lost revenue on one acre alone. That approaches $5,000 lost per 100 acres of infested beans. And yield losses can go even higher.
“SCN can reduce the number of nodules formed by beneficial nitrogen-fixing bacteria that are necessary for optimum soybean growth,” Dr. Tylka said. “Yield loss will increase as the infection of roots by SCN increases. Yield loss of 30 to 40 percent can occur even without aboveground visual symptoms.”
Scouting For SCN: A Whole-Field Approach
With the threat of high yield loss, scouting for SCN is a must. Dr. Tylka notes that by using a shovel to uproot one plant, growers can often identify infested roots. The SCN adult female swells to a lemon shape as it matures and can be seen on roots.
“Carefully observing soybean roots for SCN females is a good way to check fields for infestations that have not yet been discovered,” he said. “It also is an effective way to assess how well SCN-resistant soybean varieties are controlling nematode reproduction in fields known to be infested with SCN. There should not be many SCN females on the roots of a resistant variety if the variety is effectively controlling the nematode.”
Soil Test in Fall or Winter
With the difficulty in visually determining SCN infestation and the little that can be done once plants are infested, pathologists recommend detailed soil testing. The University of Missouri (UM) Department of Plant Pathology says the best time to take soil samples for SCN is when nematode levels are normally highest and easier to detect: in the fall, right after harvest or before soybeans are planted the following spring.
Soil should be collected over the entire field to obtain an accurate assessment. UM Plant Pathology says large fields should be subdivided into 10-acre sections. If possible, accumulate samples that represent the top 8 in. of soil in the crop row root zone. Using a shovel or soil probe, take from 10 to 20 subsamples per section in a zigzag pattern. When sampling is completed, blend subsamples and send a pint-size composite sample from each section to a nematode test laboratory.
Management: Getting Back on Solid Ground
A good management strategy is key to helping mitigate the hidden threats of SCN, Pythium and Phytophthora. Strategies include planting SCN-resistant varieties, crop rotation and using proven seed fungicide treatments and nematicides.
“The number of SCN in a field can be reduced through proper management, but it is impossible to eliminate SCN from your field once it has become established,” Dr. Tylka said. “Growers should choose appropriate management practices in order to continue profitable soybean production.”
SCN-resistant varieties can minimize reproduction, slow the build-up of SCN population densities in the soil and even produce profitable soybean yields in SCN-infested fields. Dr. Tylka notes that SCN populations are developing the ability to reproduce on SCN-resistant varieties containing PI88788 resistance genes. “Yields of SCN-resistant varieties will continue to decrease as SCN populations adapt and develop higher reproduction on varieties with these genes,” he said.
A good crop rotation goes a long way toward getting back on solid ground. Crops that are non-hosts to SCN are needed in a rotation to help keep the infestation from growing and may even help to decrease it. Good options include corn, sorghum, sunflower and alfalfa.
Along with a non-host rotation, Iowa State University plant pathologists say good growing conditions can help reduce stress and yield losses caused by SCN. Good soil fertility is needed to optimize plant growth and development.
Plant stress is also reduced with extensive weed control. Some weeds are hosts for SCN and can add to infestation problems. Effective disease and insect control help promote plant health and minimize damage caused by SCN.
An increasing trend is the use of cover crops to build up soil nutrients and reduce soil and water erosion. Some growers have had success in using cover crops to manage SCN. But even though they can enhance soil fertility, Dr. Tylka said, “The usefulness of cover crops at reducing SCN numbers remains to be determined. The results published to date are inconsistent among years and among geographical locations.”
Seed protectants can help shield soybean seeds and seedlings from early disease, insect and nematode pressure. The fungicide protectants in INTEGO® SUITE Soybeans help guard young seedlings against Pythium and Phytophthora. By adding a nematicide such as new Aveo® EZ Nematicide to the INTEGO SUITE Soybeans base treatment, growers can protect their crop from SCN as well.
“INTEGO SUITE contains two fungicides, metalaxyl and ethaboxam, that have excellent activity against numerous species of Pythium and Phytophthora,” said Alison Robertson, plant pathologist, Iowa State University. “If seedbed conditions are poor, cool and wet, a seed treatment may protect early plant stands and negate the need for replanting.”
A proven powerful defense against SCN is new Aveo EZ Nematicide. For convenience, it is available as a stand-alone product and can be added to any base seed treatment. Ease of mixing and quick-drying features help make it a reliable tool in managing destructive SCN.
“The low use rate of Aveo EZ makes it easy to add to INTEGO SUITE Soybeans for complete soybean protection,” said Dair McDuffee, seed treatment specialist with Valent U.S.A. Additionally, this user-friendly system provides smooth flowability and a low use rate.
Independent research shows how Aveo EZ added to INTEGO SUITE soybeans provides excellent SCN control and helps produce high-yielding soybeans.
To learn more about SCN, Pythium and Phytophthora control, or to contact your local Valent representative, visit soybeanprotection.com.
Aveo and INTEGO are registered trademarks of Valent U.S.A. LLC.
Every handful of soil contains thousands of microscopic worms. These nematodes can contribute to healthy, productive soils, but not all nematodes are alike. A large number of nematodes are parasitic, free-living organisms that feed on living materials.
Nematodes are a well-known pest in soybean fields, but their effect on corn is less known. This may surprise you as there are about 25-30 species of nematodes that feed on corn in the Midwest alone. A study by university agronomists found that plant-feeding nematodes were present in 80 percent of the corn fields sampled in Illinois. This was unfortunately not an isolated issue as similar results have been found in other corn growing states. Sandy soils, continuous corn fields and no-till fields have been found to be breeding grounds for nematode issues.
Spotting the Damage
When comparing healthy and unhealthy roots, there are telltale signs that damage has taken place. Roots that are likely to have been affected by nematodes will often have a stopped-off or club-shaped appearance with a noticeable lack of root hairs.
Keeping up with scouting can be an excellent way to spot nematode action in your field. When scouting a field, look for damage in circular patches. The most obvious sign of nematode damage is wilted leaves. Plants that are stunted by nematodes may appear to be suffering from a nutrient deficiency because the damaged roots are unable to take up nutrients.
When corn is in the rapid growth stage, damage can increase dramatically over a few days. In field corn, nematodes reduce feeder roots and produce root stunting. When you are looking for symptoms of root damage, be sure to not pull the roots out, but rather carefully dig them out with a shovel. By pulling roots out of the soil, fine root hairs can be stripped away.
Preventing and Controlling Nematodes
Having soil from suspected areas analyzed for nematode counts will establish baseline levels that can help you decide whether a nematicide treatment is necessary down the line. Identifying the most appropriate control measure depends on which nematodes are causing the damage in your field.
To help resist nematode issues, there are several tactics you can try. Maintain good plant health, rotating crops and controlling weeds may help reduce the population of some nematode species. Selecting hybrids with known genetic nematode resistance and adding a seed treatment like Nufarm’s Trunemco™ to your rotation can be excellent prevention and control tactics. Click here to learn more.