Sudden Death Syndrome leaf symptom

A leaf from a soybean plant showing symptoms of Sudden Death Syndrome.

Wisconsin’s corn and soybeans are maturing ahead of schedule with the help of the country’s best crop conditions, but a dangerous fungal disease could threaten some soybean fields.

The state’s corn and soybeans crops are rated 40 percent excellent as of Sunday, which was 13 points higher than the states with the second-highest percentages for those crops, according to the latest report from National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Also, 88 percent of the state’s corn and 87 percent of the soybeans were rated excellent or good — and both of those categories lead the country.

As of Sunday, 51 percent of the corn had reached the stage when the interior of the kernels have thickened to a dough-like substance, which was two days ahead of last year’s pace and six days ahead of the five-year average, the report said. It also showed that seven percent of the kernels are past the dough stage and have become dented at the top and are drying, which was three days ahead of last year’s pace and four days ahead of the five-year average.

Soybeans are maturing at an even faster rate since 90 percent were setting pods, which is nine days ahead of last year’s pace and 12 days ahead of the five-year average, the report showed.

But sudden death syndrome, which can kill healthy-looking plants quickly at the setting-pods stage, has shown up in some soybean fields in southwestern Wisconsin and soybean specialists believe it could affect up to 5 percent of the state’s crop, according to Heidi Johnson, the crops and soils agent for the UW-Extension’s Dane County office.

Soybean specialists believe affected fields could see a 20 percent reduction in yield, she said.

Symptoms of the disease show up 10 to 14 days after significant rainfall saturates the soils where soybeans are growing, according to UW-Extension reports. Soybeans can be sent for testing to the UW-Madison Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic and the Wisconsin Soybean Association will pay for the testing, Johnson said.

Meantime, the third cutting of alfalfa is 78 percent complete and the fourth cutting is 12 percent complete. Both are well ahead of schedule. The winter wheat harvest also is well ahead of schedule.

The state’s potato crop is the only major crop behind schedule. But even though the harvest is 14 days behind last year’s pace, 91 percent of the crop is rated in either excellent or good condition.

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Rob Schultz has won multiple writing awards at the state and national levels and covers an array of topics for the Wisconsin State Journal in south-central and southwestern Wisconsin.