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Plan to protect soybean crop is ready


Virginia’s soybean growers are worried that a devastating problem -- Asian Soybean Rust -- will strike Virginia’s crop, valued at $81 million in 2003. Agricultural leaders, including those in Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, have been working with Virginia growers to ensure they are well prepared to deal with the disease if it occurs.

The disease, which extensively reduced soybean yields in Brazil, was identified in Louisiana last fall and has been confirmed in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

A Soybean Rust Task Force was formed in Virginia several years ago when the danger from Asian Soybean Rust became imminent. The task force’s first step to protect Virginia soybeans was to put together a comprehensive plan to minimize losses from Soybean Rust to Virginia’s soybean producers.

Educational programs have been held to help Virginia Cooperative Extension agents, crop advisers, growers, and others understand what the disease looks like and what action to take if it is found, said David Holshouser, soybean agronomist at the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Suffolk, Va.

The task force has also established a monitoring system to identify Soybean Rust and the soybean aphid. The soybean aphid, which also reduces yield in soybeans, has been found in all of the 33 major soybean-producing counties. More than 3,000 acres in Virginia had to be treated in 2004 with insecticide to prevent losses, said Ames Herbert, Virginia Cooperative Extension entomologist at the Tidewater center. The monitoring system will look for both problems.

"Scouts" will work in 80 to 100 Virginia fields from June to September to provide the alert for the early warning system.

Growers also are encouraged to plant "sentinel" plots using varieties that mature earlier. The plots need to be established where they can be seen every day so producers will quickly notice any fungus.

"Should Soybean Rust be found and identified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, information will be sent to growers using various communication methods including websites," Holshouser said. Growers who have attended the education sessions will be ready to take the correct steps to protect the crop. The major tools for Virginia’s soybean growers are fungicides, and there will be specific information on recommended rates of use and possibly alternate use rates.

"The hope is to minimize the impact of an Asian Rust epidemic by ensuring that soybean producers have the information they need on scouting and treating soybean rust," Holshouser said.

Research continues on finding varieties resistant to Asian Rust, he said.

David Holshouser | EurekAlert!
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