A series of sentinel plots spread through 31 states in the U.S. will provide an early warning system of sorts to track Asian soybean rust.

The sentinel plot program is established and monitored by USDA, but the North Central Soybean Research Program (NCSRP) and United Soybean Board (USB) will provide additional funding — nearly $400,000 — to fund additional.

These plots will be planted early with highly susceptible varieties, according to David Wright of NCSRP.

In addition, rainwater will be monitored for the presence of rust, which has been a proven technology for the monitoring of wheat rust. Wright points out that just because rainwater contains spores doesn't necessarily indicate that rust will affect a particular area, but he says it gives growers and university experts 10 days' notice to begin watching for the disease.

Another factor will be how the spores are traveling south of the border. Wright says the spore load from the Caribbean will influence the severity of the outbreak in the U.S.

He emphasizes that identifying the disease is difficult. That's why USB and the Iowa Soybean Promotion Board are funding research in cooperation with the Navy's biological warfare defense group to develop a field test that he likens to a pregnancy test.

“We hope to have this test in the field for the 2006 growing season and on the market for 2007,” Wright says.

In the meantime, scouting is crucial in the fight against rust. Where should growers focus their scouting efforts this season? Wright says paying particular attention to the backside of tree lines, which could act as a “snow fence” for the spores, particularly in high-moisture areas, as well as the areas of the field with the highest yield potential.