High Reproduction of SCN Populations on PI 88788 Resistance is Frightening

October 28, 2022
ICM News

Iowa State conducts soybean cyst nematode (SCN) experiments in fields rented from farmers in all of Iowa’s crop reporting districts. Spring soil samples are collected from each study area to test the SCN population in the field for levels of reproduction on soybean breeding lines with SCN resistance genes. Over the years, the data from these tests have provided an indication of how well different types of resistance in soybean varieties are controlling SCN populations in Iowa.

Measuring SCN reproduction on resistance

There has been concern about SCN populations developing increased levels of reproduction on resistant varieties due to prolonged and widespread use of a single breeding line named PI 88788. Since 2006, 95% or more of the SCN-resistant soybean varieties for use in Iowa have contained PI 88788 SCN resistance, and almost all of the remaining 5% had resistance from a breeding line named Peking. More information about SCN-resistant soybean varieties for Iowa and their genetics is available here.

Soybean Cyst Nematode females on roots.
Soybean cyst nematode females on roots.

A standard way to assess potential control of an SCN population with resistance is a greenhouse test that measures reproduction of a nematode population on a resistant soybean breeding line compared to on a susceptible (non-resistant) variety. The test results are expressed as female indices, which are percentages. If female indices are below 10% on a resistant breeding line, the resistance will be effective when used in soybean varieties to be grown by farmers.

Troubling trend for Iowa

Every Iowa SCN population tested in the 1990s had female indices below 10% on all of the soybean breeding lines for SCN resistance. That means that soybean varieties with any source of resistance genes provided effective control back then.

In 2002, results of these greenhouse tests revealed SCN populations with female indices greater than 10% on PI 88788 (Figure 1, top). Similar increased levels of SCN reproduction were not seen on Peking (Figure 1, bottom).

Levels of reproduction on PI 88788 among Iowa SCN populations have increased steadily over the last two decades (Figure 1, top). These results show that Iowa SCN populations are adapting to PI 88788 resistance and the resistance is considerably less effective now compared to when it was introduced in the early 1990s.

Record high reproduction on PI 88788 SCN resistance in 2022

In 2022, the female indices of SCN populations on PI 88788 in three fields used for research were 75% to 90%. In three other fields the female indices of SCN populations were 50% to 68% on PI 88788, and two were 22% and 33% on PI 88788 (Figure 1, top). We have never seen an SCN population in Iowa with a female index of more than 70%. Considering how widespread SCN is in Iowa, these results are frightening.

Figure 1. Reproduction of SCN populations from farmers’ fields on PI 88788 (top) and Peking (bottom) resistance breeding lines in 2002, 2012, and 2022.

Soybean cyst nematode chart.

Soybean cyst nematode chart.

Back to the 1980s

An SCN population with a female index of 90% on PI 88788 means that the source of resistance and any varieties developed with the breeding line will provide 10% control of the nematode at best. This high level of reproduction makes the complete loss of effectiveness of PI 88788 SCN resistance seem possible within several years. Having no effective resistance against SCN hasn't occurred in Iowa since the 1980s, before SCN-resistant varieties were available.

Note, also, that these SCN populations with very high levels of reproduction on PI 88788 resistance are not spreading from field to field in Iowa, they are developing within the fields because of continual use of a single set of resistance genes.

More varieties with Peking and other SCN resistance are needed

Soybean varieties with the effective Peking resistance remain a small proportion of all available SCN-resistant varieties. And while the number of soybean varieties with Peking SCN resistance is increasing every year, the rate of increase is not keeping pace with the increase of SCN reproduction on PI 88788 resistance.

SCN management for now

Using an active, integrated approach to managing SCN in Iowa is more important than ever. Management of SCN should involve:

1) rotating nonhost corn with soybeans in fields infested with SCN;

2) growing high-yielding soybean varieties with PI 88788 resistance that provide as much SCN control as possible (see www.isuscntrials.info for information on resistant varieties);

3) rotating PI 88788 SCN-resistant varieties with Peking resistance, if possible, even for just one season; and

4) assessing nematode-protectant seed treatments in fields to identify those that provide added protection against SCN.

Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Integrated Crop Management News, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on October 28, 2022. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.


Greg Tylka Morrill Professor

Dr. Greg Tylka is a Morrill Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology at Iowa State University with extension and research responsibilities for management of plant-parasitic nematodes. The focus of Dr. Tylka's research program at Iowa State University is primarily the soybea...