Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced Oct. 27 that USDA is again funding projects to track the spread of soybean rust and create the Pest Information Platform for Extension and Education to provide producers with information about additional legume pests and diseases.

The nationally coordinated network will help producers in making crop management decisions that reduce pesticide input costs, reduce environmental exposure to pesticides and increase the efficiency and efficacy of pesticide applications.

"The soybean rust sentinel plots, mobile team monitoring program and online reporting system are important tools for our producers," said Johanns. "Timely information is essential to help farmers combat plant diseases and we are committed to providing it."

The risk management tool component of the network is an online, real-time data system that allows growers and their advisers to access the latest information, to the county level, of where there are confirmed disease and/or pest outbreaks. The mapping tool will include frequently updated commentaries from state extension and national specialists discussing immediate and projected risks and control options.

The mapping tool will continue to help improve crop protection by educating farmers about risk-management strategies and providing timely information about good farming practices specific to current crop pest and disease risk status. This tool will increase farmers' awareness of more precise management practices and will provide documentation for potential crop insurance claims.

The soybean rust risk management tool is available online at www.sbrusa.net.