Asian rust detected in parish

Published 12:11 am Monday, August 27, 2007

VIDALIA — After watching the potentially fatal plant disease surround the area all summer, Miss-Lou farmers now have to face the reality of the presence of Asian Soybean Rust in Concordia Parish.

Rust was confirmed in a sentinel plot in Concordia Parish Aug. 8, making the parish one of 14 in Louisiana now hosting the disease.

But things might not be all that bad.

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Vidalia soybean farmer Tim Welch said his crops are about 95 percent harvested, and the 5 percent left in the field has matured to a point where the fungus won’t likely affect it.

“I can’t speak for everyone, but the only beans left out there are probably those that have been double-cropped with crops like wheat,” he said.

This year is not the first time rust has appeared in the parish, but this appearance is the earliest, Welch said.

“It’s not a guarantee it will come back next year, but it’s likely,” he said.

If the disease does make an appearance in the future, there are several fungicides on the market that can assist with treating it, Welch said.

“We would decide which one to use based on where the plants are maturity-wise,” he said.

While the cooler temperatures of the winter months may greatly reduce the disease’s chances of surviving winter in the area — it needs living plant tissue and temperatures higher than 59 degrees to survive — it can overwinter in kudzu, one of more than 80 plants that play a host to the disease.

Soybean rust causes young plants to drop their leaves before they reach maturity.

The fungus, which first appears in the form of lesions near leaf veins, can also affect the quality and even number of beans in a pod.

As the disease progresses, the lesions turn red and brown, and eventually egg-shaped pustules filled with spores form.

The disease first came to the continental United States in 2004 — some believe it was brought from South America by hurricane winds — and was first found in Louisiana.