Research Highlights

Research Highlights
Farmers get help fighting SDS through research studies

Soybean leaf showing early symptoms of Sudden Death Syndrome. Photo: Daren Mueller

By Carol Brown

For farmers, discovering Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS) in their soybean fields can be devastating. The disease can survive in the soil for several years so when it is confirmed, it could mean low soybean yields for more than one season.

A team of Midwest researchers has been running tests to define and recommend management strategies to combat and reduce the damaging effects from the disease. Led by project investigator Daren Mueller, Iowa State University plant pathology professor, the research team has conducted field trials since 2014 and across six states to find situations that work best to mitigate SDS.

Sudden Death Syndrome is caused by a fungal pathogen that infects emerging soybean roots, causing the roots to rot. While the fungus stays in the roots, it produces a toxin that moves up the plant to the leaves. SDS prefers higher soil moisture, cool temperatures and early planted seeds. Resistant varieties and seeds treated with fungicides can be effective, some more than others.

“In years such as 2010 and 2014, we saw all the wrong conditions for farmers,” Mueller said. “SDS can overcome resistance. Our project is looking at ways to give resistant soybean varieties a fighting chance.”

With funding support from the North Central Soybean Research Program (NCSRP) and United Soybean Board (USB), the field trials compared commercially available products, focusing on the biology behind some of the management strategies to learn why they work or why they don’t.

“We’ve researched foliar treatments, planting date, tillage, crop rotation, cover crops, corn residue management,” Mueller said. “We know that corn in the rotation will increase the risk of soybean SDS.”

They also looked closely at the relationship between SDS and Soybean Cyst Nematode (SCN). Mueller said if SCN is present in the field, it could make SDS worse. He also cautioned that soybeans can still contract SDS without the presence of SCN.

This year, the research team will be comparing soybeans treated with ILeVo® and Saltro® in approximately 30 locations across the North Central region. These two products are effective against SDS. They will compare their performance under different environments to see in which conditions they work best. The results could help farmers in decision-making on which product would work better for their soil and planting conditions.

The team has published numerous articles on their findings for scientific journals and publications for farmers that provide an overview of SDS, product comparisons and summarizes years of research. These can be found on the Crop Protection Network website, which is also supported by NCSRP and USB.


For more resources on SDS, see the resources page on this website:

Crop Protection Network website:

Published: Apr 16, 2020

The materials on SRIN were funded with checkoff dollars from United Soybean Board and the North Central Soybean Research Program. To find checkoff funded research related to this research highlight or to see other checkoff research projects, please visit the National Soybean Checkoff Research Database.