Illinois researchers target SDS with genetic resistance
When conditions are just right, sudden death syndrome (SDS) of soybean can cause significant damage and yield loss in crops. University of Illinois researchers studying resistance to SDS will be on hand to share new information on controlling the disease through genetic resistance at this year’s Agronomy Day on August 14.
Cool and wet conditions at planting can put soybean crops at risk for SDS. “This disease has been a problem in Illinois in the past, and the potential is there for it to be a problem this year,” said Lillian Brzostowski, a U of I crop sciences graduate research assistant. “SDS is one of those diseases where it might not occur every year, but when environmental conditions are right, growers can have problems. We had a pretty cool, wet spring, and that’s when the fungus likes to get in the seedling roots.”
Brzostowski will discuss findings from a multiyear trial evaluating genes in soybean that confer some resistance to SDS. Though some genes that confer resistance have already been identified by soybean breeders, Brzostowski said the hope is to find out what genes provide the most resistance when incorporated into multiple genetic backgrounds.
Fusarium virguliforme, the fungus behind SDS, is a soil-borne pathogen that infects soybean early in the season, which, Brzostowski said, makes methods such as tillage, crop rotation, or fungicides ineffective at limiting disease symptoms. “Once this fungus colonizes the roots, there is no spray for it. There is no quick fix. Once your plants are planted in the field, there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Because of this, the most effective way of controlling the disease is through breeding for genetic resistance.
As part of the study, Brzostowski explained that three genes that are known to confer some resistance were incorporated into multiple, high-yielding lines representing different maturity groups. Lines were planted in Urbana, southern Illinois, and Michigan.
“One thing about this disease that is especially troubling is that it tends to pop up in fields that have the highest yield potential and that are irrigated because these plants in these fields are photosynthesizing very well, and that means that the toxin the fungus makes can move through the plant more efficiently,” Brzostowski said.
At planting, the researchers inoculate the soil with the fungus in order to bring about as many foliar symptoms of the diseases as possible. Ratings are then taken on which lines showed the worst or least symptoms of the disease.
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