Charcoal Rot Showing up in Drought Stressed Beans

Phytophthora root rot is being blamed for much of the late season death we are experiencing in our soybean fields. However if you have experienced any droughty conditions charcoal rot may be the culprit. Charcoal rot is caused by the fungus Macrophomina phaseolina and is root disease of soybean. The development of charcoal rot this year has coincided with the very dry conditions we have seen since flowering. An early indicator of charcoal rot could have been seen around flowering with any premature yellowing of the upper canopy (i.e., yellowing of the top leaves) with eventual leaf drop of those leaves. This can often be mistaken for normal plant senescence. Also, at this point in the growing season, a diagnostic sign of the pathogen can be seen on the lower stem or root tissue of soybean and this is termed microsclerotia (Images 1 and 2). These are tiny, dark fungal structures that can seen with the naked eye after scraping the outer tissues. In terms of yield, the plants in the driest part of field may have unfilled upper pods and low plant vigor. The charcoal rot pathogen survives as these microsclerotia in the soil and in plant tissue and can be long-lived. At this point in the season, management for charcoal rot is not an option. Management for charcoal rot includes the following: (i) reduction of plant stress, (ii) variety selection, and (iii) rotation.

Images 1 and 2. Charcoal rot microsclerotia on lower soybean stems.

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