Breaking Down SDS: From Seedling to Leafing

Tuesday, June 21, 2016
By: Andreas Westphal, T. Scott Abney, Lijuan Xing and Gregory Shaner, Purdue University and USDA-ARS
Soybean SDS growth on roots and root rot

When does Sudden Death Syndrome first attack soybeans? SDS begins as early as early seedling where it is susceptible to root infection. Understanding the disease is the best place start to stopping it from robbing your soybean yields. It’s not just the seed that is susceptible.


The fungus may infect roots of soybean seedlings soon after planting, but above ground symptoms of SDS in the midwestern USA rarely appear until mid-July, when soybean plants have reached reproductive stages. At this later time, the fungus penetrates into the vascular tissue of the plant (Roy et al., 1997). The fungus produces toxins in the roots that are translocated to the leaves. Often, symptoms first appear after heavy rains during reproductive stages; high soil moisture increases the disease severity (Xing and Westphal, 2006). The toxins cause foliar symptoms; the fungus itself does not invade the stems more than a few centimeters above the soil line (Roy et al., 1997).


SDS disease cycle 


The first noticeable symptoms of SDS are yellowing and defoliation of upper leaves. When symptoms first appear in a field, they may be confined to a few small areas or strips in the field, often in wetter or compacted areas, such as turn rows. Over the following two or three weeks, affected areas may enlarge and plants in other areas in the field may show symptoms. The extent of yield losses due to SDS depends on the severity and timing of disease expression relative to plant development in regards to yield components. If the disease develops early in the season, flowers and young pods will abort. When the disease develops later, the plant will produce fewer seeds per pod or smaller seeds. The earlier severe disease develops, the more the yield is reduced. Because the SDS fungus can persist in soil for long periods, larger areas of a field will show symptoms of the disease each growing season until most of the field is affected.


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