The conference was conducted in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture and was sponsored by BASF Corporation, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, Sipcam Agro USA and Syngenta Crop Protection.

"Soybean rust has the potential to devastate the U.S. soybean industry," said ASA President Ron Heck, a soybean producer from Perry, Iowa. "We must work to prevent the accidental introduction of soybean rust associated with imports or travelers, and a potential outbreak via wind-borne spores. With possible yield losses of 80 or even 90 percent, rust is one of the most pressing issues facing farmers this year."

Soybean rust attacks the foliage of a soybean plant causing the leaves to drop early, which inhibits pod setting and reduces yield. The amount of damage depends on how early in the growth of the soybean plant the infection occurs.

"ASA has undertaken a series of actions designed to safeguard the U.S. soybean crop," Heck said. "This kind of concerted effort on behalf of soybean farmers is what ASA is here to do, and that’s why membership in the ASA is so important."

Conference speakers included United Soybean Board Production Chair Brian Hieser, who discussed checkoff-funded efforts concerning rust; Mary Palm from USDA/APHIS provided an overview of the biology of soybean rust, both its pathogen and disease; and Morris Bonde from USDA/ARS talked about past and present research on soybean rust at the USDA/ARS Plant Disease Containment Facility at Fort Detrick, in Frederick, Maryland.

Glen Hartman and Monte Miles from the National Soybean Research Center at the University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign talked about USDA’s breeding for resistance efforts at the national cooperative, contract research, and international levels.

Robert L. Griffin from USDA/APHIS, Center for Plant Health Science and Technology, talked about assessing the risks of soybean rust introduction associated with trade, followed by X.B. Yang, Iowa State University, on the natural pathways for the spread of soybean rust. Todd Topp, a U.S./Brazilian farmer, talked about farmers’ experience with soybean rust in Brazil.

Allison Tally, Syngenta Crop Protection; Jim Bloomberg, Bayer CropScience; Ted Bardinelli, BASF Corporation; David Ouimette, Dow AgroSciences; and John French, Sipcam Agro USA, provided an update on the efficacy and availability of fungicide products.

Martin Draper from South Dakota State University reviewed Section 18 approval status and registration of fungicides, and Bob Tomerlin of the Environmental Protection Agency talked about the registration outlook for various fungicide products. Ray Hammerschmidt, North Central Plant Diagnostic Network, Michigan State University, presented an overview of National Plant Diagnostic Network and its role to combat rust.

One of the topics discussed at the conference was the immediate concern that rust could be transported through commercial soybean shipments from South America, where Asian rust has already caused significant crop losses. Because imported soybeans are allowed to contain up to 2 percent foreign material that mostly consists of pieces of plant stems, pods and leaves capable of transmitting the rust spores, ASA is concerned that soybean imports from countries where rust has been detected represent a risk to the U.S. soybean industry.

"ASA is working closely with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to develop protocols that will prevent the accidental introduction of soybean rust from any potential imports of soybeans or soybean meal," Heck said. "ASA and APHIS share the goal of developing procedures that will protect the United States while ensuring that the procedures are science-based and no more trade restrictive than necessary to achieve the protection goal."

ASA is adamant that the risk assessment procedures must be based on good science because the U.S. exports more than 1 billion bushels of soybeans each year and U.S. growers would not want other countries to erect non-scientific barriers to trade.

"ASA is confident that USDA is working to develop the right protocols to prevent the accidental introduction of rust," Heck said. "As global exporters, it is in our best interest to have plant protection measures around the globe that are grounded in science because we also have to live with such measures to reach our international customers."

During the past three years, ASA has worked extensively with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Agricultural Research Service, the Office of Pest Management Policy, and with the new Homeland Security Department on the rust issue. ASA is also working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure fungicides are approved and readily available, promoting additional federal funding to expand rust research, and now, hosting the Soybean Rust Conference.

"What is needed now are more Federal dollars to expand rust research," Heck said. "ASA is calling on the Administration and Congress to substantially increase soybean rust research funding. Growers can help by becoming ASA members, and by calling on their Senators and Representatives to provide greater Federal research funding to fight soybean rust disease."