Biologicals are a valuable tool today in preventing Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS).

“SDS and white mold are two significant fungal diseases in soybean production in the U.S., affecting 40 to 50 million acres in the north-central region.  Yield losses can be as high as 50 percent in fields having severe infestation.  Outbreaks of the two diseases occur in seasons with different temperatures.  Therefore, these two diseases threaten the sustainable production of soybean in the North Central Region,” explained Dr. X.B. Yang, Iowa State University.

To date, SDS (caused by Fusarium virguliforme) remains one of the major yield robbing diseases in soybeans in many areas of the Corn Belt and relative importance continues to increase.  The disease is caused by a fungus that overwinters and colonizes the crown and root system of the plant which releases a toxin leading to leaf death and flower and pod abortion as the soybeans move toward maturity in August.

SDS can be devastating as it shows up sporadically mid-summer in many visually appealing soybean crops with high yield potential; although the infection to the root system occurs early in the growing season during wet conditions.

Common management practices to help reduce the risk of SDS include; selecting SDS-resistant varieties (no completely resistant varieties are available), improving field drainage and alleviating compaction issues and particularly on headlands late seeding as SDS favors cool and wet planting conditions, and Bayer’s ILeVO chemical seed treatment.  However, results of an 11-year study conducted through the North Central Soybean Research Program, led by Dr. Yang, shows that biological control products will aide in SDS management as well.

One such biological product is Heads Up® Plant Protectant. It is an EPA registered seed treatment.  Heads Up utilizes a preventative mode of action against SDS and other soil-borne bacterial and fungal diseases.

By pooling the data from universities across Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ontario over an 11-year period, Yang showed that “Heads Up has the potential to increase soybean yield by suppressing [both] sudden death syndrome and white mold.”


Yang noted, “Results show that on average seed treatments with Heads Up improved soybean yields by 2.08 bu/A while effectively reducing the occurrence of SDS and white mold”.

Manufactured from plant extracted biochemicals, Heads Up contains no living organisms, and has no fungicidal properties.  It can be used alone or mixed with other commercial standard seed treatments, as it is compatible and easy to work with. It stimulates

the plant’s natural defense mechanism by switching on the pathogen fighting genes before infection.

Heads Up is available in Illinois.  To learn more or find a dealer near you, call 1-866-368-9306 or visit


Pioneer Hybrid International.  Accessed August 16, 2017.

North Central Research Program. August 16, 2017.

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About the Author: Colin Dutcheshen