A mild winter has allowed Asian soybean rust to survive throughout the winter and to be more advanced at this time of year than in any previous years, according to LSU AgCenter plant pathologist Clayton Hollier.

Typically, scientists plant soybean sentinel plots about two weeks before farmers plant their soybeans to be able to see if rust shows up.

Hollier said his associate, Patricia Bollich, has been scouting since the beginning of the year and found ASR on kudzu leaves that survived from last year. The ASR that has been found so far has been found earlier than in the past and it’s been found on young, volunteer soybeans that grew from seed spilled last year.

“I don’t want to alarm people, but this is the most advanced situation that we’ve seen this time of year with rust,” Hollier said.

What’s even more alarming, he said, is the pustules being examined this year.

“You find that these are not old pustules that survived on old leaves, but are new ones that are producing new spores. This is new and different from what we’ve had in the past. This sends up a red flag.”

The fungus has been found in a dozen sites in eight of the coastal parishes and as far north as East Baton Rouge, he said.

This year’s early start to the rust season is concerning, but no reason for farmers to panic, Hollier cautioned. He reminded farmers to remain vigilant and to be prepared to control the fungus earlier than ever before.