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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

July 2, 2004

A "ready" state to battle soybean rust

by Ed Adcock and Barb McManus, Agriculture Communications

The Iowa Soybean Rust Team, formed last fall to give farmers and crop professionals up-to-date, science-based information about soybean rust, is offering five training sessions this month for the state's 1,500 certified crop advisers, certified professional agronomists and independent crop consultants.

On the lookout for symptoms, signs

"These professionals are the best qualified to watch for symptoms and signs of rust on a daily basis throughout the growing season across the millions of acres of soybeans in Iowa," said Greg Tylka, professor of plant pathology. "We hope that the system being developed will result in an accurate and rapid evaluation of soybean rust."

Soybean rust is a disease caused by a fungus. The result is yield losses -- as high as 40 percent in southern U.S. production regions and more than 10 percent in other regions, according to a risk assessment by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That translates to billions of dollars.

Disease arrival inevitable

Although it is unlikely the disease will appear in Iowa this growing season, preparations for its inevitable arrival are under way. Asian soybean rust has been found in every soybean growing area of the world except North America.

X.B. Yang, a colleague of Tylka's in plant pathology, works with experts at St. Louis University to track winds that could carry the rust spores to the United States from South America, where the disease appeared in 2001. Yang said the fungal disease eventually will arrive in the United States, but is unlikely to be carried to North America by winds this year.

Asian soybean rust was first identified in Japan in 1902 and carried by the prevailing winds to Australia in 1934. From there it traveled to Africa and, eventually, South America.

First detectors to work with Extension experts

Crop professionals who complete the training will gain "first detector" status in a fast-track system developed to identify soybean rust. First detectors will work with ISU Extension field specialists and county extension directors to quickly identify soybean rust.

In addition to the university, members of the Iowa Soybean Rust Team represent the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Iowa Soybean Association and Promotion Board, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The team's goal is to keep farmers, crop consultants, extension specialists and researchers informed on how to spot the disease, where to take samples for accurate identification and how to minimize yield loss in Iowa.


"We hope that the system being developed will result in an accurate and rapid evaluation of soybean rust."

Greg Tylka