Watch for Aerial Blight

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Aerial Blight is caused by Rhizoctonia solani and is normally associated with high temperatures and high humidity. Over the past few years within Craven County, a small percentage of fields have shown symptoms of this disease and incidence seems to be increasing. While it is yet to become an issue causing severe economic loss, it merits monitoring, especially since it can be controlled with fungicide applications.

Infection for this disease typically begins at flowering. Plants may have fewer flowers and thus pod set, show matted leaves, have water soaked lesions on leaves, leaf spots, leaf desiccation or upper plant defoliation. Note that this diseas is not one that can be scouted from the field edge or truck windshield. If noted at this stage, damage as already occurred as noted the image below. Spots of Aerial Blight within a soybean field

Close examination of leaves should reveal fungal growth or webbing. For many plants, lower leaves, roots and stems may not be affected. However, it should be noted that within the Mid-South, severe infections have resulted in lesions on stems and pod blights.

Soybean leaf with webbing from fungal growth

Soybean webbing caused by the fungi, Rhizoctonia

Strobilurin fungicides applied at Growth Stage R5 were shown by Mississippi State University to be effective in the web post, Aerial Blight of Soybean. The North Central Regional Committee on Soybean Diseases ranked several products as effective in 2017 in the publication Management of Soybean Diseases, Foliar Fungicide Efficacy for Control of Foliar Soybean Diseases—January 2017.

N.C. Cooperative Extension in Craven County will continue to monitor for this disease. Growers are encouraged to scout fields. Note that once the infection reaches the point as shown in the images, it is probably too late to treat effectively with a fungicide.