Soybean rust makes appearance

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 23, 2009

NATCHEZ — Spring isn’t even officially here yet, and already the soybean farmer’s nemesis — Asian soybean rust — has made an appearance to the south.

The LSU AgCenter announced last week that rust had been found in kudzu in five south Louisiana parishes, the closest of which is East Baton Rouge Parish.

But Adams County Extension Service Director David Carter said he isn’t too worried about the early appearance, which is no guarantee that the disease will work its way further north.

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“(Rust) is slowly getting to where more states and counties are getting it, but I don’t think it has stopped us from getting any crops yet,” Carter said.

The spore-borne pest first made an appearance in Louisiana in 2004, when experts believe that high winds from major storms brought it to the North American continent. It can overwinter in kudzu.

“I wouldn’t tell farmers to get worried about it now,” Carter said. “(Mississippi) hadn’t even started scouting for rust yet. Most of the kudzu in our area is dormant.”

If untreated, the disease can cause early defoliation and can seriously affect the quality of the beans in young plants. More mature plants are less susceptible to the parasitic fungus.

The disease has made its way into the area before, most recently in 2007. Last year, Adams County and Concordia Parish were rust-free, but Wilkinson County suffered a serious infestation.

“If rust is coming, it is coming,” Carter said. “If it looks probable that it is coming, you can just put out a treatment for it.”

The treatments for rust includes fungicides, and soybean varieties have been developed to be resistant to the disease.

Mississippi’s scout team will put out alerts if farmers need to start spraying, Carter said.

Louisiana has announced plans to activate a rust hotline for farmers to update themselves on the status of the disease’s progression.