Use Caution when Choosing Cover Crops for SCN-infested Fields

There are plenty of incentives for planting cover crops, but there is one thing to be aware of when planting them with fields infested with soybean cyst nematode (SCN): don’t feed the nematodes.

Researchers from the SCN Coalition have compiled a list of cover crops that are suitable to grow in SCN-infested fields without fear of providing a host for the nematode. The list is based on checkoff-funded research published by Iowa State University and North Dakota State University.

“If you have SCN in your fields, we encourage you to consider cover crops that are non-hosts and poor hosts for SCN,” said George Bird, Michigan State University nematologist and leader of the SCN Coalition. “It is the single most damaging pest in North American soybeans, and once it is in your fields, you can’t eliminate it completely, but you can manage it.”

Legumes (nitrogen-fixing) that are poor hosts or non-hosts for SCN:

Alfalfa, Austrian winter pea, Berseem clover, Cowpea, Crimson clover, Hairy vetch, Peas, Red clover, White clover

Researchers at North Dakota State found slightly higher SCN reproduction on Austrian winter pea, hairy vetch and field peas than what Iowa State researchers found. However, reproduction was low in both studies.

Grasses and cereal grains that are poor hosts or non-hosts for SCN:

Annual ryegrass, Barley, Cereal rye, Oats, Wheat

Brassicas (radishes, cabbage, mustard) that are poor hosts or non-hosts for SCN:

Canola, Daikon-type radish, mustard, Oilseed radish

Work with your crop advisers and local experts to decide what is best for your situation.

Lastly, Bird remind farmers that all varieties of the same cover crop are not created equal.

“Select the best variety to meet your objective and manage it to achieve your objective,” said Bird. “Specific details about using cover crops in SCN-infested fields in your area can be obtained from your state Extension nematologist.”