The American Soybean Association (ASA) applauds the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for providing funding for soybean rust surveillance and monitoring. The framework will allow for reporting where soybean rust has been confirmed, as well as predicting where it is likely to spread during the 2005 growing season. The cooperating USDA agencies include the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Cooperative State Research Extension and Education Service (CSREES). USDA confirmed the introduction of Soybean Rust (SBR) Phakospora pachyrhizi in the continental U.S. on November 10, 2004.

"The goal of the framework is to provide stakeholders with effective decision support for managing soybean rust during the 2005 growing season," says ASA President Neal Bredehoeft, a soybean producer from Alma, Mo. "Authorization of a federal/state/industry coordinated framework has been one of ASA’s top priorities since the plan was first announced at a USDA-APHIS-sponsored stakeholders meeting on February 4th in Indianapolis. ASA commends USDA for its good work on this and other rust-related initiatives."

A report by USDA’s Economic Research Service in April 2004, estimated net economic losses ranging from $640 million to $1.3 billion in the first year of the pathogen’s establishment in this country, and placed annual losses in the ensuing years between $240 million and $2.0 billion, depending on the severity and extent of subsequent outbreaks. The coordinated framework for soybean rust monitoring will help producers minimize economic loss due to SBR.

"The soybean rust coordinated framework for early detection and surveillance plan establishes a network of sentinel plots and mobile field monitoring teams," Bredehoeft says. "USDA funding for 320 sentinel plots will be distributed over 35 states and Puerto Rico. This sentinel plot network will be used to provide input data for soybean rust forecasting models that will provide soybean producers with an early warning system for soybean rust."

USDA funding will support mobile field monitoring teams to verify SBR infections in areas identified based on spore depositions, as indicated by the soybean rust forecast model. The actual data will be important in calibrating and enhancing the soybean rust model’s forecasting capabilities for spore deposition and infection. This calibration enables model output to be used with greater confidence by stakeholders.

Funding also is authorized to enable ARS to determine whether spores can be detected in rainwater, and if so, how spore sampling in rain relates to spore dispersion models for providing advanced warning before soybean rust expresses itself in new areas.

Soybean sentinel plots, each occupying approximately 2,500 sq. feet (50 x 50 ft), will be planted approximately 2-3 weeks prior to the earliest planting date of commercially-grown soybeans in each major U.S. production area or region, where possible. And these plots will be surveyed for SBR at least once each week. Diagnostics on survey samples will then be conducted in a timely manner to determine any positive finds of SBR. Following analysis, results of survey data will be broadcast indicating the location of positive, as well as negative counties, for SBR.

The disease forecast model supported in the USDA Coordinated Framework (a cooperative project involving North Carolina State University and Pennsylvania State University, and CSREES), will be available on the web. In addition, pertinent links to other resources, including Iowa State University, will be provided. The survey data will be used to define new SBR source areas for the beginning of each day’s model forecast run. The USDA model will predict spore deposition ranging from light to heavy on a logarithmic scale. In the days following deposition, the model will track infection severity based on a weather-driven epidemiological model.

"This system identifies for producers the locations where soybean rust has been confirmed, and will provide prediction models showing where the disease will likely be detected in the near future," Bredehoeft says. "Equipped with this information, each producer will be better able to decide what actions should be taken to protect his or her soybean crop."

Fungicide treatments currently represent the only option for containing soybean rust by lessening the risk for infection by spores. Fungicide use in other countries has been effective in keeping the impact of soybean rust below the economic threshold of yield loss.

Working closely with USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency, the ASA helped gain approval for eight fungicides submitted through the Section 18 emergency registration process. Two other chemicals already had full registration. Because more than one manufacturer produces some fungicides, more than a dozen different fungicides are available for the 2005 growing season.

"As a member of the Coordinated Framework Steering Committee, ASA will continue to work with all stakeholders to provide the best possible information to U.S. soybean producers," Bredehoeft says. "Now, ASA’s next challenge is to obtain Federal appropriations for research projects leading to the development of rust-resistant or rust-tolerant varieties of soybeans."