Soybean rust found in five states

BELTSVILLE, Maryland, November 22, 2004 (ENS): Soybean rust, a destructive fungus that slashes soybean yields, has now been found in five southern states, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland confirmed on Friday.

Soybean rust has been detected in Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and Mississippi, the USDA lab said.

Florida, which grows about 11,000 acres of soybeans, is the latest state to hear a rust diagnosis. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson said the fungus has been found in samples collected from an experimental test plot managed by the University of Florida/Institute of Food & Agricultural Sciences in Quincy, Florida.

Florida extension agents were prompted to look in their soybean test plots because of notification by Louisiana State University that Soybean rust had been found in their extension service test plots.

Pathologists strongly suspect that Hurricane Ivan, which hit the panhandle of Florida in mid-September is responsible for the spread of the disease from South America.

Severe outbreaks in the last few years in South America have heightened concern for the spread of the disease to North American soybean growers.

The Soybean rust pathogen, Phakopsora pachyrhizi, which is easily spread through windborne spores, is a fungus that causes small lesions on the foliage and pods of soybeans and several other legume hosts, including lima beans. Soybean rust can reduce yields by 50 percent or more.

Soybean rust also infects kudzu, the invasive nuisance weed that has spread throughout Florida, and serves as a reservoir for the soybean rust pathogen. Forage legumes, such as yellow sweet clover, also serve as a refuge for soybean rust in the off season.

The impact of the fungus this season is expected to be minimal because most soybeans have been harvested.

The Florida Agriculture Department is working jointly with the University of Florida/IFAS and the USDA to immediately determine the extent of the disease, coordinate diagnostic activities, and conduct training of surveyors and growers for accurate detection of the disease.

The USDA says a coordinated approach will be required by all soybean producing states to effectively manage this disease.

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