This devastating agricultural pest, the soybean cyst nematode (Heterodera glycines), is the bane of soybean crops in many countries around the world.
After infecting the roots of the soybean plant, the female nematode grows, produces hundreds of eggs and dies, hardening into a cyst inside the root from which the hatched larvae will later burst forth.
An infection may cause yellowing of the plant’s leaves and stems, necrosis of the roots, stunted growth and decreased seed yields.
Infections are a serious problem in soybean-growing areas of the Americas and Asia – in the US alone they are estimated to cost $500 million a year in lost crops.
Nematicides are not often used against it, as they are expensive and can have environmental side-effects. Crop rotation can be more effective: the nematode is a parasite and requires a live soybean plant to reproduce. A season where a field is planted with crops that are not suitable hosts can work wonders.