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Soybean cyst nematode management guide

Successful soybean cyst nematode (SCN) management is a key factor for profitable soybean production. Unfortunately, there is no way to eliminate SCN once it is in a field. Instead, the goals of managing this destructive pest are to:

  • Minimize yield losses
  • Reduce SCN population density
  • Maintain yield potential of resistant varieties with an integrated approach

The most effective SCN management practices currently include using resistant varieties and rotating to nonhost crops.

You can take these steps for making SCN management decisions:

  • Monitor yield yearly
  • Scout for symptoms
  • Take soil samples to determine SCN egg densities

SCN is the most destructive pathogen of soybean in the United States. Annual yield losses in soybean due to SCN have been estimated at more than $1 billion in the U.S. Because the nematode can be present in fields without causing obvious aboveground symptoms, yield losses caused by SCN are often underestimated.

Yield losses caused by SCN can vary from year to year, and are influenced by soybean variety, climatic conditions, and soil biotic and abiotic factors. In heavily infested fields, SCN can cause soybean yield losses of more than 30 percent, and in some sandy soils complete yield loss can occur, especially in a droughty year. In addition, SCN can also infect dry beans and snap beans, and cause significant yield loss to these crops.

Long-term effective management of SCN will rely on an integrated program that includes resistant soybean varieties, crop rotation, and possibly alternative strategies such as soil fertility management and biological control. Although it is unclear whether or not there will be any cost-effective commercial biological control agents on the market in the near future, better understanding of the roles of natural parasites in regulating SCN populations in fields may help to develop strategies to lower SCN populations through practical cultural methods.

SCN life cycle, damage and spread


How to know if you have SCN

In Minnesota, SCN has been found in most (64) soybean-growing counties. However, 50 percent of soil samples near-randomly collected from soybean fields throughout the soybean-growing area in Minnesota in 2007-08 were not infested with SCN or had undetectable low SCN population densities. While most fields in southern Minnesota are infested by SCN, a large proportion of fields in northern Minnesota may have no or low SCN infestation.


Soybean variety resistance to SCN


How to manage the soybean cyst nematode


Scientists' projections for future of SCN

Soybean production has continued to increase in the past few decades, and it will remain a major crop in Minnesota. Successful SCN management is a key factor for profitable soybean production. SCN management, however, faces serious challenges due to limited sources of resistance, extensive soybean production, and the shift of HG Types.


Senyu Chen (editor), plant pathologist, Southern Research and Outreach Center; James Kurle, plant pathologist, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; Dean Malvick, Extension plant pathologist; Bruce Potter, integrated pest management specialist, Southwestern Research and Outreach Center; and James Orf, emeritus soybean breeder, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

Reviewed in 2021

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