State soybean checkoff boards joined forces with the United Soybean Board (USB) to combat rust, adding up to a $380,000 annual checkoff investment. And judging by the South American fields that recently experienced up to 60 to 70 percent yield loss due to rust - the consensus is out. Research is critical.

“I think it’s an important problem that we absolutely need to research, because of the implications for U.S. farmers,” says Bryan Heiser, chairman of USB’s production research committee and soybean producer from Minier, Illinois. “We need to do all we can to minimize the rust problem. And that’s being done through coordinated efforts by USB, USDA-Agriculture Research Services (ARS), the North Central Soybean Research Program (NCSRP) and individual state soybean checkoff boards.”

The fact that several state checkoff boards are making checkoff investments is a positive sign, Heiser adds.

“I think it’s important for all states to be plugged into rust research,” Heiser says. “There are pieces that could be applied to their state or help in the national effort. Rust can be very devastating. South America reported more than $1 billion in yield loss last year alone.”

Research goals include developing rust resistant varieties through germplasm research and breeding. Another project will focus on plotting chronological migration maps of soybean rust through air currents from South America to North America, in an effort to determine the northward movement of rust, says Jack Hartman, vice-chair for USB’s production research committee and soybean producer from Sumner, Iowa.

“We’re trying to gather information on a potential problem that’s a threat to soybean production here in the U.S.,“ Hartman says. “We thought it was imperative that we invest money into research in the event that it does enter our country.”

NCSRP, a collaborative program funded by 12 state checkoff boards, is playing a critical role in helping coordinate these research efforts. NCSRP has continued to update its Plant Health Initiative (PHI) Web site with current information. Dr. David Wright, coordinator for PHI, recently made a presentation at the Midwest Soybean Conference held in Sioux Falls, S.D. During that presentation, he noted that soybean rust entered Brazil in 2001, and is now found throughout Brazil’s soybean growing region.

“It is not a question of if, but a question of when producers will see soybean rust enter the U.S.,” Wright says. “NCSRP and other soybean organizations are attempting to get ahead of any infestation that may occur.”

For more information on soybean rust and other soybean pests and diseases, visit www.planthealth.info.