Soybean checkoff continues fight against disease, pests

With the growing season in full swing, soybean producers are paying attention to soybean rust confirmations in the South. And while rust is a serious disease that commands attention, it’s not the only yield-robber out there.

The farmer-leaders of the soybean checkoff are committed to helping producers fight plant illnesses and pests, including, but not limited to, rust.

Economists estimate the effects of a soybean rust outbreak could potentially cost $240 million to $2 billion annually, with 60 percent to 70 percent of those losses directly affecting farmers. The United Soybean Board (USB) and soybean checkoff are working to ensure that soybean rust in the United States is closely monitored and managed.

Last year, USB helped establish additional sentinel plots to monitor for rust warning signs. Additionally, the checkoff funds research to study rust resistance and early detection. But even though soybean rust is an imperative issue, it is not the only thing contributing to the decline of soybean health. Producers face a great number of challenges that endanger the health of their crops.

Soybean producers can also find useful information in the fight against rust at

“Soybean rust is a critical issue — no doubt,” says Ken Dalenberg, chair of USB’s Production Committee and a soybean farmer from Mansfield, Ill. “But so are nematodes, aphids, blight, white mold, SDS and other pests and diseases out there. The soybean checkoff is helping producers learn what to watch for and how to treat pests when needed and, more important, is investing in research to address many of these issues.”

The soybean checkoff funds research to help farmers manage several production challenges and has created a resource to help producers recognize and respond to these yield-robbers. Farmers can request management and diagnostic guides at

The soybean cyst nematode (SCN) is the single biggest yield-robbing pest in soybeans today and can cause substantial yield loss each year. The soybean checkoff has a large multi-state research effort to increase resistance to SCN, using a molecular approach.

But SCN is not the only pest taking a bite out of farmers’ profits: Soybean aphids can also rob you of yields. The USB farmer-leaders are working with other checkoff groups like the North Central Soybean Research Program to maximize research efforts on soybean aphids. One such project includes breeding aphid-resistant lines in an effort to make those lines commercially available.

Keeping plants disease-free is just as important to plant health as keeping the bugs off your soybeans. White mold threatens soybeans, particularly in cool temperatures and moist soils. White mold presents an economic threat to soybeans as well as to sunflowers, canola, dry peas, chickpeas, lentils and edible dry beans. The soybean checkoff joins 10 land-grant universities and five commodity groups in the USDA’s Sclerotinia Initiative to help direct research on white mold.

Weather factors into sudden death syndrome (SDS) as well. Checkoff-funded research shows the most favorable conditions for SDS include poorly drained soils and cool, wet weather early in the growing season. Additional research has focused on finding SDS-resistant lines of soybeans, as well as on developing a greenhouse screening technique to be used in additional research.

Each of the above-mentioned challenges may have negative effects on the soybean crop, but it is important to remember that the effects can be minimized by thorough management.

“Farmers should be vigilant in checking their crops, testing plant and soil samples, and managing the overall health of the plants,” says Billy Wayne Sellers, USB director and soybean farmer from Baxley, Ga. “Doing these things and using educational materials and research updates from the soybean checkoff and Extensions services should help farmers protect their soybeans.”

USB is made up of 64 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the Soybean Checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. Checkoff funds are invested in the areas of animal utilization, human utilization, industrial utilization, industry relations, market access and supply. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Customer Information Act, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.

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