Iowa State Plant Pathologist to Coordinate Extension Component of Multi-state Soybean Project

March 29th, 2011

AMES, Iowa — Iowa State University is part of a team that was awarded a U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) grant to create new disease management technologies to improve the sustainability of soybean production.

Virginia Bioinformatics Institute and Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences are the lead institutions for the $9.28 million grant (

Alison Robertson, Iowa State plant pathology assistant professor and extension specialist, will coordinate the extension component of the project. She will work with extension colleagues throughout the Midwest to ensure that the research results and recommendations are shared with soybean producers in the region.

Scientists from 18 institutions will focus on fungus-like oomycete pathogens of soybean including Phytophthora sojae, a deadly, soil-borne plant pathogen that causes root and stem rot in soybean. Damage to soybean crops caused by root and stem rot cause an estimated $300 million in annual yield loss for the nation's farmers.

"As farmers plant earlier and earlier into cooler and wetter soils, seedling diseases from pathogens, such as Phytophthora sojae and Pythium spp are expected to increase," Robertson said. "This will be the first region-wide work to identify what oomycete species are the biggest threats to soybean stand establishment in the Midwest."

Extension pathologists from the 12 north central states that are part of the project this spring will begin surveying soybean fields for oomycete pathogens causing damping off, a term used to describe diseases that kill seeds or seedlings.

"Soybean is a very important crop for the United States," said Virginia Bioinformatics Institute Professor Brett Tyler, who serves as the project's principal investigator. "The main goal of this project is to improve the sustainability of crop production by mitigating several major diseases. This will benefit small farmers as well as larger commercial producers, and will strengthen our nation's food security system by keeping food prices down."

The grant was announced March 28 by the USDA. More information is available at:


Alison Robertson, Plant Pathology, (515) 294-6708,

Ed Adcock, Agriculture and Life Sciences Communication Service, (515) 294-2314,