Anthracnose Sneaks Up on Soybeans

Soybean anthracnose is caused by the Colletotrichum truncatum fungus and can occur throughout U.S. soybean growing regions. The disease can attack soybean stems and pods at any time during the growing season, but it typically strikes when plants near maturity late in the season. While soybean anthracnose is usually a secondary pest that doesn’t cause significant economic damage during most growing seasons, farmers need to be on guard. Soybean anthracnose can result in severe crop loss just before soybeans cross the finish line to successful yields.

Identification and Lifecycle

The most typical symptom of soybean anthracnose appears as random patterns of brown spots on stems and pods. Tiny, black spine-like structures can be seen with a handheld magnifying lens. Leaves can develop brown veins, curl upward and defoliate. Pod blanking (no seeds) can result from anthracnose-infected soybean plants. Soybean anthracnose is one of several diseases that can occur during soybean reproductive phases. The United Soybean Board offers a guide to help farmers identify common problems.

Soybean anthracnose overwinters in infected crop residue and infected seeds. It’s not caused by the same pathogen that causes corn anthracnose, according to the University of Minnesota. Ragweed, alfalfa and velvetleaf serve as hosts for soybean anthracnose. Soybean anthracnose fungal spores don’t thrive in dry weather. Wet, warm and humid weather for 12 hours or longer during blooming and pod set provide an ideal environment for development of soybean anthracnose.

Crop Damage

Soybean anthracnose causes minor damage when stems are infected. The biggest threat comes from pod infections when anthracnose decreases seed quality and yield. Early pod infection leads to empty pods at maturity, while moldy and shriveled seed may be seen in anthracnose-infected pods later in the season, according to University of Oklahoma Extension.

Severe economic damage from soybean anthracnose, which can strike anywhere soybeans are planted, typically occurs in warm, wet and humid weather. University of Illinois research shows that anthracnose can reduce seed quality, stands and yields by 16 to 26 percent or more.

Managing Soybean Anthracnose

Farmers can benefit from several options to manage soybean anthracnose, including variety selection, scouting, cultural practices and fungicides. These best management practices also help minimize the potential for fungicide resistance.

Variety selection

Choosing soybean varieties with genetic disease resistance offers an economical and effective defense against soybean anthracnose and other diseases. While some soybean varieties may provide only partial resistance to soybean anthracnose and other diseases, even partial resistance goes a long way in protecting soybean yields. Seek recommendations from a local seed dealer to determine soybean variety ratings for soybean anthracnose and other pests to help determine the best varieties for individual fields and regions. For best results, plant disease-free, certified soybean seed.

Scouting

Early and frequent scouting for diseases is a routine best management practice to tackle problems before they lead to economic damage. In the case of soybean anthracnose, watch for premature defoliation throughout the canopy when cankers girdle the leaves. The affected branches and stems may resemble a shepherd’s crook. Look for pods that are shriveled with one or more missing seeds.

Cultural practices

Crop rotation remains a solid tactic to reduce soybean anthracnose disease. Tillage to incorporate crop residue from a previous soybean crop can help break down infected residue and reduce overwintering of the soybean anthracnose pathogen.

Fungicides

Fungicide treatments for foliar diseases such as soybean anthracnose are typically recommended between the R3 and R5 (pod development) stages. When stem or pod disease is apparent, take immediate action to apply a fungicide for maximum effectiveness. Agronomists advise that spraying fungicides after the R6 stage isn’t helpful.

Bayer solutions to control diseases in soybeans

Disease-tolerant seed traits, specific to soybean growers, can be found in Credenz® soybean seed. Credenz can provide a degree of built-in protection against stem canker, frogeye leaf spot, Phytophthora root rot and Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS), plus multiple herbicide-tolerant traits and nematode control. When followed by timely fungicide applications, Credenz soybeans are best protected against yield-robbing diseases.

A fungicide seed treatment can provide a healthy start for seedlings. Multiple fungal pests can impact soybean seeds and seedlings immediately after planting, and EverGol® Energy SB can protect against pests causing the most damage such as Rhizoctonia solani, Fusarium spp and Pythium spp.  ILeVO® soybean seed treatment protects against the fungus causing SDS in soybeans, which can be exacerbated by cool or damp conditions early in the season. 

Also, timely foliar fungicide applications help protect soybean plants from anthracnose and other diseases through the season. For farmers, a fungicide decision is a matter of considering production needs, past history in the fields, commodity prices, proper timing and risk management. Plant pathologists typically advise that the R5 growth stage is when an economical fungicide spray window closes. Although applications after R6 may reduce disease, it’s not likely to increase yield enough to justify the cost.

Bayer offers Stratego® YLD, a fungicide featuring the latest in triazole technology combined with strobilurin chemistry for soybeans. Offering two modes of action, it provides both preventive and curative benefits and systemic movement to provide broad-spectrum, long-lasting disease control and higher yield potential. Trials show that when applied at early flowering, around growth stage R3, Stratego YLD can deliver an average yield increase of 3 to 4 bushels per acre over untreated soybean fields. For cost efficiency, fungicides can be tankmixed with insecticides and applied in the same trip across the field.

Visit our soybean section to learn more about soybean disease control options from Bayer or contact your local Bayer representative.  

Before purchasing seed, selecting a seed treatment or applying any fungicide, please read the entire label for the best possible results and to confirm that the product is effective on the disease you need to control. Every product is not suitable for every situation, and correct application technique will ensure the best results.

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