John Wilson, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension educator, annually presents what he calls the 'Tode Awards to counties for their work in sampling for soybean cyst nematodes. He describes SCN as the most devastating pest to soybean growers in Nebraska and the U.S. "Last year, SCN cost Nebraska farmers more than $45 million and more than $1 billion in lost yields nationally," he says.
Losses caused by SCN, he explains, can be reduced if a farmer knows it is in his or her field. "But there's a catch," Wilson says. "Farmers can have yield losses of 20 to 30% with no visible symptoms on the plant. The plants look green and healthy. Often the first indication of an SCN problem is soybean yields that hit a plateau, or even start to drop off, while corn yields continue to increase in that field."
The best way to determine if SCN is in a field is to take a soil test. The Nebraska Soybean Board, a partner with UNL in the battle against SCN, has funded a project to encourage farmers to sample their fields for SCN. The board's financial support covers the cost of analyzing soil samples for SCN, which normally costs $20 a sample.
"We just completed the ninth year of this project with some staggering results," Wilson says, who is based in Tekamah. "Since 2005, almost 5,500 samples have been submitted and SCN has been identified in 29 Nebraska counties for the first time as a result of these tests."
That number more than doubles the number of counties where SCN had been confirmed over the previous 19 years. Since it was first discovered in Nebraska in 1986, SCN has now been identified in 56 counties that produce more than 93% of Nebraska's soybeans, according to Wilson.
In 2013, 1,079 samples were submitted and 392, or 36.3%, were positive for SCN. From these results, a panel of judges has identified the following the fifth annual 'Tode Awards winners:
•Most samples submitted: winner was Buffalo County with 199. Honorable mentions went to Kearney County, 88; Lancaster County, 58; and Platte County, 52.
•Most samples positive for SCN: winner was Buffalo County, with 54. Honorable mentions went to Platte County, 52; Saunders County 24; and Dodge County, 21.
•Highest percentage samples positive for SCN (must have submitted at least 5 samples): Tie with Seward and Knox counties both at 86%; Honorable mentions went to Burt County, 84% Platte County, 81%; and Saunders County, 67%.
•Sample with highest egg count: (number of eggs per 100 ccs of soil): winner was Knox County with 66,080. Honorable mentions went to Antelope County, 53,120; Rock County, 46,080; and Cuming County, 26,680.
•Counties with their first ever SCN detection: Winners were Custer and Rock counties.
"Some might argue that the counties in the last category are losers, not winners," Wilson says. "However, farmers in those counties now know SCN has been found in area fields, so they can sample for it and start managing it if found in their fields. So they will be 'winners' by increasing their soybean yields if they know what the problem is."
Wilson says that although it often goes undetected, SCN is present and it is reducing the profitability for Nebraska soybean producers.
To learn more about SCN or to pick up bags to submit soil samples from your fields, contact your local UNL Extension office.