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Integrated Pest & Crop Management


Laura Sweets
University of Missouri
Plant Science & Technology
(573) 884-7307

Mid to Late Season Soybean Diseases

Laura Sweets
University of Missouri
(573) 884-7307

Published: August 1, 2011

This is normally the time of year when mid to late season soybean diseases may show up in Missouri soybean fields. Symptoms of late season Phytophthora root rot, sudden death syndrome (SDS) and Cercospora leaf spot/blight might be evident in fields. In addition to Phytophthora, SDS and Cercospora, Septoria brown spot could have moved up in the canopy of some fields. Losses from soybean cyst nematode continue to be a problem. This would be a good year to sample fields for SCN. In some years charcoal rot could become a problem. But as much of the state has been under a prolonged period of hot, dry weather, symptoms of SDS may not be as prevalent this season. Plants dying from stress compounded by root systems damaged by Phytophthora, Rhizoctonia or Fusarium root rot may be more common. And in areas in which drought has been severe charcoal rot may be damaging or killing soybean plants.

Yield losses from these various late season diseases will vary depending on when symptoms began to occur, number of plants infected, severity of disease in infected plants and weather conditions from now to harvest. Although it is too late in the season to do much to control these diseases this year, management strategies to prevent or minimize these diseases next season are also given below.

Late Season Phytophthora Root Rot
Wet conditions after planting regardless of planting date increase the likelihood of Phytophthora root rot. Phytophthora may cause seed decay and seedling blight but it can also cause symptoms later in the season as plants move into reproductive stages of growth. Infected older plants show reduced vigor through the growing season or die gradually over the season. Lower leaves may show a yellowing between the veins and along the margins. Upper leaves may yellow. The stems show a characteristic brown discoloration that extends from below the soil line upward and even out the side branches. Eventually the entire plant may wilt and die. Withered leaves remain attached even after the plant dies. Preventive measures are the main means for managing Phytophthora root rot. Select varieties with either race-specific resistance, tolerance or a combination of the two, plant in good seedbed conditions, tile to improve drainage, take steps to reduce compaction, rotate crops and use an appropriate fungicide seed treatment.

Sudden Death Syndrome
Symptoms of sudden death syndrome (SDS), caused by a strain of Fusarium virguliforme, may appear several weeks before flowering but are more pronounced after flowering. Foliage symptoms tend to be more pronounced when cool, wet conditions occur during and just after the flowering stages of growth. With the weather this season, foliage symptoms may not be widespread or severe. Foliage symptoms begin as scattered yellow blotches in the interveinal leaf tissue. These yellow blotches may increase in size and merge to affect larger areas of leaf tissue. Yellow areas may turn brown but veins remain green giving the leaves a striking appearance. Infected plants may wilt and die prematurely. Severely affected leaflets may drop off the plant leaving the petiole attached or may curl upward and remain attached to the plant. Root systems may show deterioration and discoloration of lateral roots and taproot. When split open, internal tissues of the taproot and stem may show a light gray to light brown discoloration.

Management options for SDS are somewhat limited but should include planting varieties which have performed well where SDS has been a problem, improving drainage in poorly drained fields, avoiding compaction, staggering planting dates, delaying planting until soils are warm and dry, avoiding continuous crop soybean, maintaining good crop vigor, avoiding crop stress including stress from soybean cyst nematode and harvesting fields with SDS in a timely fashion.

Septoria Brown Spot
Septoria brown spot causes small brown spots on the unifoliolate and lower trifoliolate leaves. The individual spots may run together forming irregularly shaped brown blotches on the leaves. Infected leaves may yellow and drop prematurely. Brown spot usually starts on the lower portion of the plant. Under favorable weather conditions (warm, wet weather), the disease may move up through the plant. Brown spot was evident in many Missouri soybean fields earlier this season. But late season rains can trigger a reoccurrence of Septoria brown spot. Symptoms move up through the canopy of soybean plants. Lower leaves may show heavy spotting, yellowing and dropping prematurely. Upper leaves may also show spotting and yellowing. Some fields which have a yellow cast from the road may be showing symptoms of Septoria brown spot rather than SDS.

The fungus which causes this disease, Septoria glycines, survives in infested residues left on the soil surface. Fields with continuous soybean production are more likely to show damage. Planting disease-free, good quality seed of resistant varieties, rotating crops with at least one year between soybean crops and maintaining good plant vigor should reduce losses from Septoria brown spot.

Cercospora Leaf Spot and Purple Seed Stain
Cercospora kikuchii can infect soybean seeds, pods, stems and leaves but is most commonly found on the seed. However, this year we are seeing some cases of leaf spot or leaf blight caused by this fungus. Infection is primarily occurring on the uppermost leaves and begins as reddish purple to reddish brown, angular to somewhat circular lesions on the soybean leaves. These lesions may coalesce to kill larger areas of leaf tissue. The uppermost trifoliolate leaf and petiole may be blighted and brown. One striking symptom of this disease may be the premature yellowing and then blighting of the youngest, upper leaves over large areas of affected fields. In most fields, the symptoms have not progressed down the plants more than one to two nodes. Pods at the uppermost node may develop round, reddish purple to reddish brown lesions. This pathogen may also infect seed causing purple seed stain. Infected seed show a conspicuous discoloration ranging in color from pink to pale purple to dark purple. The discoloration may range from small specks to large blotches which cover the entire surface of the seed coat. Temperatures of 82-86°F with extended periods of high humidity favor disease development.

At this point in the season control of Cercospora leaf spot and purple seed stain is not feasible. It is important to remember that since this fungus can infect the seed, seed from heavily infected fields should not be used for seed. If infected seed must be planted, seed lots should be thoroughly cleaned and an appropriate seed treatment fungicide used. Rotating soybean with crops other than legumes will also help reduce Cercospora leaf spot and blight in future soybean crops.

Soybean Cyst Nematode
Symptoms of soybean cyst nematode (SCN) range from no obvious symptoms to subtle differences in plant height and vigor or unexpected decreases in yield to severe stunting and discoloration of plants or dead plants. Foliage symptoms may include a yellowing of leaves from the margin inward or a general yellowing of leaves. But such foliage symptoms are also caused by a number of other factors including root rot diseases, nutrient deficiencies, herbicide injury and compaction, so foliage symptoms should not be used to diagnose SCN. Plants with SCN may have poorly developed root systems, if plants are carefully dug up, females may be evident on the roots. The females appear as tiny (smaller than nitrogen-fixing nodules), whitish to yellow to brownish, lemon-shaped structures on the roots. Symptom expression may be more severe if plants are subjected to other stresses such as moisture stress, nutrient deficiencies, herbicide injury, insect damage or other diseases.

Charcoal Rot
Symptoms typically begin to develop as plants move into reproductive stages of growth. Infected plants are less vigorous and have smaller leaves. Leaves may turn yellow and wilt. Leaves eventually turn brown and have a dry appearance. The taproot and lower stem develop a silvery gray to light-gray discoloration of the epidermis (outer layer of the soybean stem). The epidermis may flake or shred away from the stem, giving the stems a tattered appearance. Fine black specks or microsclerotia may be evident in tissues below the epidermis and eventually in epidermal tissues. Management options for charcoal rot include rotating crops, maintaining good crop vigor to help reduce losses from charcoal rot and irrigating properly from just before bloom to pod fill.

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REVISED: September 28, 2011