Soybean rust threat looms

South of the border disease heading north

By Janet Kubat Willette

Soybean rust is still south of the equator, but many in the soybean industry fear it's only a matter of time before the fungus arrives in the continental United States.

The fungus has been found in several Asian countries, Australia, Africa, Brazil, Latin America, Puerto Rico and Hawaii. The fungus moves primarily on the wind, so the speculation is that soybean rust will arrive in the southern United States on the winds of a hurricane.


The disease can cause yield losses ranging from 10 percent to 100 percent, according to Ohio State University Extension information.

Although losses have been as high as 80 percent in South America, Iowa State University models show yield losses will be closer to 40 percent in the United States, said Jim Kurle, an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota plant pathology department.

Kurle is one of a broad group of farmers, educators, industry and government officials who aren't waiting for the disease to strike the nation before acting.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture plant protection division teamed up with its colleagues across the border in South Dakota to ask USDA for the ability to use seven additional compounds to treat soybean rust. Now only two compounds -- Quadris and Bravo -- are labeled for soybeans.

"What we have tried to do is increase the options available to farmers," said Geir Friisoe, MDA plant protection section manager.

The cost to treat soybean rust will vary widely, Friisoe said, but he's seen estimates of $6 an acre to $30 an acre, depending on how many treatments are needed and what compound is used.

Kurle said a system has been established to announce the appearance of soybean rust in the United States. If found in Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture would make the official announcement, he said.

"We want to help keep farmers abreast of soybean rust developments," Kurle said. "We are trying to make information available to assist farmers." Kurle is working to set up soybean rust educational programs for farmers, crop consultants and Extension educators throughout Minnesota in early June.


"Education is the most important thing right now," he said.

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