Plant Pathologist Monitors Seasonal Crop Diseases | College of Agricultural Sciences | News | SIU

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Plant Pathologist Monitors Seasonal Crop Diseases

October 26, 2015

He might not be exactly happy when he sees brown spots on soybean or corn leaves in his fields, but if a new disease is in the area, Jason Bond sees it as an opportunity for research.

Bond, obviously, is not a typical farmer. He’s a plant pathologist, a professor of plant, soil and agricultural systems at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a well-known expert on sudden death syndrome in soybeans. Along the way, he’s gotten to know a few other crop diseases as well, and had the opportunity to research commercial seed company products in the never-ending quest to help farmers improve efficiency and yield with less strain on the environment.

SIU has long been a clearinghouse of information for area farmers in much the way larger, land-grant universities are in other areas of the Midwest, Bond said. And in a year like this one, with a wetter-than-average summer and conditions good for plant disease, he expects phone calls about leaf spots and weak corn stalks and other problems.

He talked about recent discoveries of tar spot in corn recorded in Indiana as an example. Tar spot is not often seen in the Midwest, but is fairly common in Mexico and South America.

“I doubt this summer is really the first time it’s here,” he said, “but now people know to look for it.” That’s a good thing, he said, because knowing what to look for, and sharing that information, can help farmers make important decisions about spraying, crop rotation and other field management concerns.

“This year we had a lot of rain. Excessive moisture can lead to disease in corn and in soybeans,” he said. “With the corn tar spot, the spores land on a leaf, and they need leaf wetness to form the tube that nourishes them. That’s true for other foliar diseases – leaf diseases -- as well. So we saw more of that this year.”

Southern rust, typically seen in Texas and Mexico, also made an appearance in the Midwest this year, Bond said. Southern Rust attacks the corn stalk as well as the leaf, which can hinder harvest by causing the stalk to collapse.

Frogeye leaf spot, a disease affecting soybeans, remains fairly common in the region. Bond said the pathogen causing the disease can survive in infected soybean residue. Crop rotation can help keep it in check. More aggressive varieties of the frogeye leaf spot, however, need a more thoughtful approach.

“We need to plant disease-resistant varieties and we need to use the right types of fungicides,” he said. Bond noted SIU’s contributions to promoting disease-resistant soybean varieties. Ahmad Fakhoury and Khalid Meksem, for example, study soybeans at the molecular level, unlocking the secrets of disease-resistance in the plants’ genes, and Stella Kantartzi works to develop new germplasm lines through careful soybean breeding.

In addition to his United Soybean Board research, Bond currently manages several commercial grants from seed companies including Monsanto Company, Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc., BASF Corporation and Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. to conduct field trials that test seed treatment, disease-resistant seed varieties and fungicidal or herbicidal crop protection.