Georgia growers are expected to grow more than 300,000 acres of soybeans this year; double the acreage of last year.

The upsurge in Asian soybean rust, which has already been confirmed in seven locations in five southwest Georgia counties this year, could threaten southern beans.

Freezing temperatures kill this disease, but the rust can overwinter on kudzu that isn't killed in winter, says University of Georgia Extension plant pathologist Bob Kemerait. That's where it's been found so far this year.

Before rust arrived in the U.S., Georgia farmers rarely sprayed fungicides to protect soybeans. But over the past two years, they've sprayed at least half the crop, and the disease still has caused some damage. Due to the increase in acreage and expected higher value this year, Kemerait says growers need to be ready to apply timely fungicides to protect the crop if the disease spreads early.

Another pest, the Asian soybean aphid has spread to more than 20 states since it was first discovered in the U.S. in 2000. The aphid multiplies quickly if left untreated and can cut yields by 40%.

Aphids overwinter easily in Georgia but don't like the hot, dry summer.