Dr. Chris Little’s Work with SDS

(Chris) I’m Chris Little, I’m at K-State in the Department of Plant Pathology and we work on row crop diseases, specifically soybean and sorghum. The kinds of work that we’re doing in soybean is really looking at an important disease that’s kind of emerging in this part of the country called Sudden Death Syndrome, or SDS for short. It’s caused by a fungal pathogen that is really good at colonizing seedling roots and colonizing the roots as they mature into the adult plant. As that seedling or plant gets colonized, it produces toxins that go to the leaves and cause yellowing and leaf death and ultimately yield. I think that’s one of the things that we’re most interested in is how does this pathogen really affect yield and what can we do to mitigate or help solve the problem of that yield reducing fungal pathogen? One of the real keys is planting date. When should farmers plant? Should they plant early or should they plant late or is somewhere in between going to be OK? What we found so far is that late planting is going to lead to reduced yields anyway. Early planting we end up with a lot of disease but better yields and so sometimes we have that happy medium, kind of find a happy medium between planting time for the best yield even if there is a little bit of disease out there. We’re also interested in abiotic properties of soils. What I mean by that is pH, soil texture-how sandy is the soil, those kind of things. Those all might play a part or influence how the pathogen is acting and what we found is that there are relationships for example, between phosphorus content in the soil and the pathogens. More phosphorus, less disease. Maybe there is a potential nutritional way of solving this disease problem. Other things like resistance to the organism, or cultural management strategies such as how much compaction might cause a problem. If you have a lot of compaction, sometimes you have bigger problems with root rot diseases, like the SDS. Less compaction, not so much. We’ve certainly seen that. Another area are seed treatments. There’s lots of different chemicals out there to treat seeds. As those seeds develop the chemical protects the seed from the invading fungus and one example is ILeVO, a new seed treatment which appears to have good yield bump and also appears to reduce the amount of pathogen on the seedlings as well. Ways such as those can be put together in sort of an integrated pest management strategy–cultural controls, seed treatments and also resistance to get the best yield for our soybean growers, especially when they face problems with the SDS pathogen in the Kansas River Valley and other important production areas. People can go to the Kansas State website and Department of Plant Pathology and from there they’ll be able to locate information on soybean disease research in both the Agronomy and Department of Plant Pathology websites.

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