Iowa State University Receives $900,000 Grant for SCN Research

February 23rd, 2005

Iowa State University has been awarded a grant for $900,000 to investigate the process by which soybean cyst nematodes infect soybeans.

Soybean cyst nematodes (SCN) cause an estimated $700 million in annual losses to the U.S. soybean industry and are regarded as the most serious disease problem in soybean production. The small, worm-like parasites live underground, penetrate soybean roots and feed on the plant’s fluids.

"Our approach is to unravel the molecular mechanisms underlying successful SCN parasitism and then to specifically interfere with these mechanisms," said plant pathologist Thomas Baum, who is the lead researcher on the project. "After understanding SCN parasitism on a molecular level, we will be able to devise ways to defend against SCN attack."

Baum is a member of a research team that has been investigating the mechanisms SCN use to attack the plant. Work thus far has found that the nematode injects parasitism proteins into soybean root cells that change the cells allowing the parasite to feed.

The research team includes Dan Nettleton, statistics, and researchers at the University of Georgia, North Carolina State University and the University of Missouri.

The team’s experiments have discovered more than 50 of these parasitism proteins, most of which were previously unknown. This research project seeks to find out what the proteins do in the plant’s cells.

"We will determine where and when nematode parasitism proteins are released into soybean tissues, which molecules they interact with and where exactly they function within the soybean cell," Baum said. "This knowledge will be the critical piece of information needed to devise new control mechanisms against the SCN."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Research Initiative grant is for three years. Baum credited soybean check-off funding for the previous research that helped secure the federal research funds.


Thomas Baum, Plant Pathology, (515) 294-2398,
Ed Adcock, Communications Service, (515) 294-2314,