Early season soybean diseases
Phytophthora can cause seed rot, preemergence damping-off and early postemergence damping-off. Initially affected tissue develops a soft, watery brown rot. Within several days the affected plant parts may dry out and shrivel up becoming dark, dry and brittle. This early stage Phytophthora is difficult to distinguish from Pythium damping-off. Phytophthora can also cause a seedling blight in which established seedlings turn yellow, wilt and die. Generally the entire seedling is affected and roots may be poorly developed and rotted. Phytophthora root rot is more likely to occur in heavy, wet soils, low areas or compacted areas, but it may occur in light soils or better drained areas if heavy rains occur after planting.
Rhizoctonia can cause seedling blight and root rot of soybean. Affected stands may have an uneven appearance and seedlings appear pale green in color and stunted in growth. The identifying feature of this disease is a small, reddish lesion on one side of the stem at or just below the soil line. This lesion develops into a sunken, cankered area at the point of infection. Sometimes the lesion will expand to completely girdle the stem. On severely infected seedlings, the entire hypocotyl may be discolored and shriveled into a dry, stringy or wiry stem.
Fusarium can also cause root rot of soybean. Infection is usually confined to roots and lower stems. The lower part of the taproot and the lateral root system may be discolored, deteriorated or completely destroyed. General roots show a nondescript brown discoloration and a dry, shrunken rot. Above ground portions of plants may appear off-color and stunted. Plants with severe Fusarium root rot may die prematurely.
Charcoal rot, caused by Macrophomina phaseolina, may be more commonly recognized as a mid to late season disease on maturing soybean plants, but it can also occur early in the season on seedlings. Infected seedlings tend to show a reddish brown discoloration from the soil line up the stem. The discolored area changes from reddish brown to dark brown to black. Foliage may appear off color or begin to dry out and turn brown. If the growing point is killed, a twin stem plant may develop. Under hot, dry conditions, infected seedlings may die. Under cooler, wetter conditions, infected seedlings may survive but carry a latent infection. Then symptoms may reappear later in the season with hot, dry weather.
Once the crop has been planted, there is little that can be done to reduce incidence or severity of soybean seedling diseases. Additional stress from poor growing conditions, herbicide injury or other factors may compound problems with soybean seedling diseases. Prior to planting it is important to consider variety selection (especially in fields with a history of Phytophthora), fungicide seed treatment, crop rotation, seedbed preparation and conditions at planting.
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