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Corn Helps Check Soybean Cyst Nematodes in No-Till FieldsBy Jan Suszkiw
March 20, 2002
Farmers who practice no-till, leaving soils unplowed before planting, run little risk of boosting soybean cyst nematode (SCN) populations as long as soybeans are rotated with corn, an Agricultural Research Service study suggests.
Heterodera glycines (SCN), a microscopic roundworm, costs farmers $240 million to $1.5 billion annually in crop losses. During the past decade, one-third of Midwestern farmers have adapted no-till to replenish organic soil matter, curtail erosion and cut production costs.
Recently, theres been speculation that no-tills increasing use has contributed to a rise in SCN populations in Midwestern soybean fields. However, theres been little actual research investigating this in Midwestern states, according to nematologist Gregory Noel, at ARS Soybean/Maize Germplasm, Pathology and Genetics Research Unit at Urbana, Ill.
So, in 1994, he initiated a seven-year study on a local field with silty clay loam soils and six percent organic matter to examine what, if any, effect no-till had on SCN populations compared to using conventional tillage, corn-soybean rotations, and SCN-resistant and susceptible cultivars.
Among his observations:
Surprisingly, the pests 1999-2000 population crashed even further in all research plots. Noel suspects a natural antagonist emerged, such as a parasitic fungus or bacterium, which raises the prospect for a new SCN biocontrol agent.
ARS is the U.S. Department of Agricultures main scientific research agency.