Soybean rust experts recommend the following plan of action to be ready for rust this year:

  1. Stay informed. Know how much rust inoculum survives the winter in the South. The most likely sources of rust spores for the Midwest are Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Mexico, due to weather patterns. The official source of current rust outlooks and updates is the USDA site, “This is where state rust specialists post their commentaries, so it's a great site to get a lot of information in a short time,” says Don Hershman, University of Kentucky plant pathologist. It also carries results from the sentinel plot system, a vital monitor of rust inoculum dispersion. Your state Extension office is the best source of local rust advice.

  2. If there is a storm that could carry spores into your area, scout the lower portion of your plants' canopy with a 20X lens and know what you are looking for. “The trouble is, it's pretty tricky to spot at a low level, so inexperienced scouters may see rust and not know it,” says Greg Shaner, professor of botany and plant pathology and Extension specialist at Purdue University. “For that reason, sentinel plots are very important; they are scouted by knowledgeable people who get the word out in time.”

  3. Maintain a solid relationship with your local fungicide dealer/applicator. “Keep up on the latest information on management of soybean rust with fungicides and watch the Web sites to see where soybean rust is developing,” advises Dean Malvick, assistant professor of plant pathology and Extension specialist, University of Minnesota.

“Remember that rust may not slowly creep toward you, providing ample warning,” Hershman says.

“Have your ear to the ground and have a plan, don't wait until rust is in your field,” says Carrie Lapaire Harmon, University of Florida Extension plant pathologist. “You don't need to purchase new equipment or buy fungicides right now, but do have a plan. That applies to anything in life.”