Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today unveiled USDA's interactive soybean rust Web site as part of a national soybean rust plant disease surveillance and monitoring network, during remarks to the Kansas, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska Farm Bureau Federations meeting here. "USDA is launching this Web site to help ensure farmers and producers have easy access to all the best information and guidance on soybean rust," said Johanns. "This web page will serve as a one-stop shop for anyone who depends on the soy industry to help understand these issues and make informed decisions."

The one-stop federal resource, www.usda.gov/soybeanrust, provides timely information on the extent and severity of soybean rust outbreaks in the United States, Caribbean basin and Central America. It will give users up-to-date forecasts on where soybean rust is likely to appear in the United States, reports where the disease exists by county, refers growers to county extension agents nationwide, lists the National Plant Diagnostic Networks laboratories and links to other Web sites to give producers effective disease management options.

USDA agencies, including the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service; the Risk Management Agency; and the Agricultural Research Service, partnered with soybean industry organizations, state departments of agriculture and many in the research and scientific communities to launch this comprehensive Web site. This effort is part of the strategic plan that USDA implemented in 2002 in anticipation of a potential soybean rust find in the U.S., which established priorities of protection, detection, response and recovery.

Soybean rust is caused by either of two fungal species, Phakopsora pachyrhizi, also known as the Asian species, and Phakopsora meibomiae, the New World species. The Asian species, first found in Louisiana last year, is the more aggressive of the two species, causing more damage to soybean plants. The fungus has been found in eight other states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and South Carolina.