Soybean cyst nematodes (SCN) cause an estimated $1 billion loss in soybean yields in the U.S. Midwest alone. Managing SCN infestations in the field requires obtaining accurate counts of SCN eggs in soil samples. The SCNCount system is an integrated soil sample processing and nematode counting system that automates the labor intensive tasks of separating the eggs from the soil and counting them using a microscope.
The labor costs and limited throughput of the conventional SCN estimation method makes it prohibitively expensive for a soybean grower to obtain an accurate and sufficiently high resolution estimate of field nematode infestation levels. Most growers assume the presence of SCN and use SCN resistant seed on all their soybean fields. With the SCNCount system, the soil testing laboratory can process 20-40 times the number of samples in the same amount of time, making it feasible to test every acre of soybean for SCN.
With the results of the SCNCount test, the agronomist can recommend nematode management strategies (nematicides, resistant seeds, biological control) in areas with high infestation levels. Growers can plant higher yielding, albeit susceptible varieties of soybeans where they do not have a problem, thereby increasing their yields and offsetting the expense associated with SCN management.
The image above left shows a 6-channel SCNExtractor unit which allows extraction of SCN eggs from soil samples. Above right shows an image of SCN eggs that are counted using machine vision. A video showing the SCNExtractor unit in action can be seen in the following video.
The SCNCount system is undergoing optimization following the performance of the first prototype. We expect this product will become available in 2017.