Getting to the Root of the Problem - PulseResearch
April 25, 2017
Examining the best ways to control soybean root rot in Western Canada
Considered to be a green alternative for conserving non-renewable resources, soybeans are seeing increasing market demand nationally and internationally for human consumption and animal feed markets. As a result, the seeded area in Canada has grown significantly over the last five years and is only expected to keep growing as market demand increases and cultivars with early maturity and improved cold tolerance become available.
However, root diseases could undermine the success of soybean production for Canadian growers. “Soybean root rot affects root development, nitrogen fixation, and ultimately, yields,” says Debra McLaren, Research Scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Brandon Research Centre.
“Fusarium root rot is a major disease of soybeans in Canada and can cause significant yield reductions due to reduced plant stands, stunted seedlings, and weakened root systems,” she says. “Controlling Fusarium root rot is difficult and cultivars with high levels of resistance are not yet available. In addition, little information is available in Western Canada on the prevalence, incidence, and pathogenicity of Phytopthora root rot, which is one of the most destructive diseases of soybeans in Ontario.”
Because of the lack of options for preventing this disease, the best path forward is developing strategies to manage it. This is why McLaren is currently leading research that aims to ensure that soybean growers in Western Canada have the best disease management and prevention options to nurture this up-and-coming crop. “This research aligns with current industry priorities of ensuring that soybean growers have access to high yielding, disease resistant varieties that are adapted to growing conditions in Western Canada,” she says.
In order to achieve the desired results, McLaren is gathering information to add to the currently lacking database on this disease in Western Canada through research being carried out with collaborating scientists at facilities across Western Canada over a five-year period. Information will be collected on the major root rot pathogens of soybean, their impact on yield loss, genetic variation within the populations of root rot pathogens, and soybean cultivars with improved resistance/tolerance to the most prevalent root rot pathogens. In addition, the impact of soil salinity on root rot development and the aggressiveness of predominant root rot pathogens across different regions will be assessed.
Research is expected to wrap up in 2018, at which time McLaren expects to have prepared the foundation needed to create strategies to improve root rot management. This information will also serve to create specific recommendations for soybean growers in Western Canada, which will be communicated through a variety of grower-focused communication channels. Finally, the information will be used in plant breeding programs for the development of high yielding, disease-resistant soybean varieties that are adapted to growing conditions in Western Canada.
In the end, managing root rot in soybean will have far-reaching impact. “It will also improve the efficiency and consistency of soybean production in Western Canada, increase the competitiveness of soybean production under prairie conditions, and ultimately increase profits for growers through increased yields and reduced risk,” McLaren says.
Funders: Manitoba Pulse Growers and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (collectively $683,908)
Project Lead: Debra McLaren, Research Scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Brandon Research Centre
Co-Researchers: Drs. R.L. Conner and B.D. Gossen, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, S.F. Hwang and K.F. Chang, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, and Dr. S.E. Strelkov, University of Alberta