Cool, wet growing conditions this year have increased disease pressure in some soybean fields, cutting into yields and crop quality. Lessons learned from 2009 can help growers better select soybean varieties to combat diseases for next year to maximize yields.

"Heavy disease pressure has been reported this year in fields to diseases such as white mold, soybean cyst nematode and brown stem rot," says Don Schafer, Pioneer senior marketing manager for soybeans.

While growers may face unknown conditions each year, they can be better prepared by selecting soybean varieties with defensive traits resistant to these types of diseases.

According to Schafer, white mold has been reported across most states in the northern Corn Belt, including Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Nebraska. A sporadic disease that does not have widespread incidence every year, white mold can survive up to 10 years in soils, necessitating more than just rotation with nonhost crops like corn, sorghum and small grains.

"2009 is one of the heaviest years for white mold we have seen in the past 10 years," Schafer says.

Brown stem rot surfaced in its typical areas of northern Illinois, northern Indiana, southwest Michigan, and southern Minnesota, but also is showing up in atypical areas like northeast Nebraska and South Dakota.

Schafer reports other diseases, such as sudden death syndrome, are afflicting new areas as well.

"The geographies impacted by sudden death syndrome have expanded this year, with the disease moving both west and north," Schafer says.

As one of the most destructive soybean pests, Soybean cyst nematode infestations pose another chronic threat to crops. Annually, soybean cyst nematode costs growers more than $1 billion.

Effectively managing nematodes requires scouting, sampling and rotating crops and using sources of soybean cyst nematode resistance. To complicate matters, the presence of soybean cyst nematode can cause further stress in fields already plagued with brown stem rot or sudden death syndrome. Selecting the right combination of genetics, agronomic and defensive traits with specific seed treatments will help set the stage for growers to have a successful soybean crop.

"Even with increased disease pressure this growing season, Pioneer soybean products are performing remarkably well," Schafer says. "The advancements we have made in research using molecular markers and other technologies have greatly improved the products we are bringing to the marketplace."

Schafer says Pioneer uses Advanced Yield Technology to improve yield and develop seed products with higher tolerance to diseases. These include traits designed to tolerate soybean diseases, such as brown stem rot and Phytophthora root rot, as well as pest pressures like soybean cyst nematode.

To combat these diseases, Pioneer recommends tailored solutions to help each grower choose the right product for the right acre for the 2010 planting season.

"By understanding the crop management practice of each field, it's easier to help the grower select the right products," Schafer says. "For example, if it's a field with a history of no-till and tends to be planted early in the season, selecting seed products that offer good emergence scores, a solid track record of standibility and a strong disease package is recommended. Pioneer also provides growers with the option of fungicide and insecticide treatments."