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Illinois study identifies a key to soybean cyst nematode growth


April 8, 2019
By Lauren Quinn

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The soybean cyst nematode, one of the crop’s most destructive pests, isn’t like most of its wormy relatives. Whereas the vast majority of nematodes look like the microscopic worms they are, the female soybean cyst nematode shape-shifts into a tiny lemon after feeding on soybean roots. In a new EvoDevo article, a University of Illinois research team explains how it happens and why.

“We think the soybean cyst nematode has evolved this body shape so that they can produce a lot more offspring,” says Nathan Schroeder, assistant professor in the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois and corresponding author on the new study. “If you compare the most closely related species that stay long and skinny, they have a lot fewer babies than this lady does.”

The round shape allows female soybean cyst nematodes to retain about two-thirds of their fertilized eggs inside their bodies. As embryos develop, the mother’s body hardens to become a protective cyst. Schroeder says these adaptations have allowed the soybean cyst nematode to become as successful as it is. | READ MORE