Soybean Sudden Death Syndrome

Bob Mulrooney, Extension Plant Pathologist;

Sudden death syndrome (SDS) has been tentatively identified from a soybean field in Sussex County and several fields in New Castle County this week. We have not seen this disease in Delaware since 2000 when it was first identified. The reason we are seeing it again is that we have had weather conditions that were very favorable for SDS just like in 2000. It has to be cooler and wetter than normal in the early part of the season for SDS to appear. What does SDS look like in the field? Yellow blotches form between the veins, usually developing first on the uppermost leaves. In a few days the yellow blotches will coalesce and begin to turn brown. The end stage is complete tissue death between the veins, with the only green tissue remaining being that associated with the primary leaf veins. The edges of severely diseased leaves will roll inward. Over time the diseased leaflets may fall off the leaf stalks (petioles) or they may remain attached to the plant. When you dig up the infected plants primary, secondary and tertiary roots are severely rotted. Nitrogen-fixing nodules are mushy. The exterior of the stem appears healthy but the interior of the stem is a milky-brown color, compared to the yellow-white color of a healthy stem. Serious yield loss usually only occurs when plants are exhibiting serious foliar symptoms BEFORE mid-pod fill. After that time, plants can look pretty rough, but yields may not be affected much. Individual and groups of plants, 10-50 feet in radius, usually show a range of symptoms ranging from some leaf spotting to complete defoliation. Wet or otherwise stressed areas of fields from compaction or other causes, such as along field edges, will usually be the first to develop symptoms. In extreme cases, entire fields may show symptoms. When SDS is severe, symptoms will first develop in “hot spots” and later progress into other areas. This gives the effect that the disease is spreading, but in reality it is not. Rather the time of infection, crop health, and field conditions vary, so disease symptoms are expressed at varying times and rates. The only control is reducing plant stress by reducing compaction, and planting resistant or tolerant varieties. Rotation is of little to no value in controlling SDS. Be careful to check plants carefully for these symptoms because stem canker can also produce similar symptoms.

foliar SDS symptomsFoliar symptoms of SDS

SDS root symptomsInfected root on the left with diseased leaf compared to healthy stem and leaf