Soybean growers now have a key to unlock problems they encounter during the growing season, whether from insects, diseases, nutrients, weeds, herbicides or weather.

An interactive diagnostic guide has been published by the United Soybean Board (USB) to help farmers quickly identify causes of problems.

"It's a thorough guide of both common and rare problems," says Bill Wiebold, the extension soybean agronomist at the University of Missouri who headed the two-year project.

The guide, prepared in three formats, will be available free to soybean producers who ask for it. The diagnostic tool is funded by soybean check-off dollars. MU Plant Science faculty coordinated writing and editing of the guides. "Top experts in all fields of soybean production across the country contributed," Wiebold said.

The guide has 20 technical authors who hail from South Dakota to Mississippi to North Carolina and soybean states between. Many more experts contributed photographs and ideas for the illustrated guides.

One version is a printed picture book that can fit in a hip pocket or on the pickup dashboard, Wiebold says. Information in the book is also on a CD ROM for use in a computer. Another interactive version is at http://www.psu.missouri.edu/soydoc on the Internet.

In the interactive version, producers sort through sets of choices. An answer is reached quickly in an electronic process of elimination.

An introduction tells crop scouting techniques that will help narrow the problem. "Accurate identification of the problem is the first step to finding the correct solution," Wiebold says. "The diagnostic guide gives a comprehensive and systematic approach to identification.

"Some problems will take laboratory confirmation," Wiebold added. "However, a great many problem pests and stresses can be identified with the visuals provided." Wiebold added that there might be multiple problems in the same soybean field. "Look carefully at all of the possibilities before making a decision."

The task force working on the guides started with a diagnostic key in an older publication from the American Soybean Association, Wiebold said. Updated research was added to expand the guide.

Team leaders working with Wiebold were Laura Sweets, MU plant pathologist; Bill Johnson, MU weed scientist; Wayne Bailey, MU entomologist, and Peter Scharf, MU soil scientist.

The Internet version is complete. The book and CD version will be available on request sometime this month. Soybean growers will receive a mailer with a return postcard to order their preference. There will be advertisements, starting this month, with a toll-free number to call with orders.

Individual state soybean associations will handle distribution in their areas. In the Show-Me state, that will be the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, Box 104778, Jefferson City, MO 65110.