ST. LOUIS -- Soybean rust holds potential to cause severe damage and yield loss to U.S. soybeans. That's why the soybean checkoff worked hard to prepare for soybean rust years before it entered the United States. Now, the checkoff partners with other groups to provide soybean farmers with the best information on soybean rust to allow them to make the best decisions.

The soybean checkoff has maximized farmer-dollars by partnering with the USDA to fund sentinel plots to monitor the spread of soybean rust in partnership with the Integrated Pest Management Pest Information Platform for Extension and Education (ipmPIPE), since soybean rust was confirmed in the United States in 2004. Starting in 2010, the United Soybean Board and the North Central Soybean Research Program (NCSRP) and state checkoff programs will leverage checkoff funds to  fund the sentinel plot program, while USDA will support the ipmPIPE Web site and one predictive model. Another change affects the placement of sentinel plots. This year sentinel plots will be primarily in the South, in order to warn Southern farmers where rust is likely to strike. There will be a reduced number of plots in the North funded by state checkoff boards and others, with a greater reliance on ad-hoc observations based on risk determined by model predictions and observations in the South. This partnership provides valuable information that saves soybean farmers money.


"Spraying decisions should all be based on information, and the sentinel plot has done a great job providing information about the spread of soybean rust," says Don Hershman, Ph.D., extension plant pathologist, University of Kentucky. "Good information on soybean rust has saved U.S. soybean farmers at least $200 million per year on fungicide applications that would not have been necessary, or by giving farmers the information needed to control rust where it did threaten yield."


The ipmPIPE program provides the information gathered on the spread of soybean rust on the Web site www.sbrusa.net. This information allows farmers to avoid unnecessary fungicide applications but also helps them to track the spread of rust. Tracking the spread of rust was a challenge in some Southern states.


"This was the first year that Mississippi had identified yield loss in some fields that could be specifically attributed to soybean rust," says Tom Allen, assistant extension and research professor, Mississippi State University. "We won't know for certain how much yield we lost, because many acres will not be harvested due to several weeks of rain during harvest."


Allen says a single aerial fungicide application could cost approximately $20 per acre, but the need for an application depends on planting date, proximity to rust in other states and environmental factors both before and after fungicide applications. The cost of using fungicides makes informed decisions critical.


"Potentially tens of millions of dollars could be wasted in Mississippi if fungicides were applied unnecessarily," says Allen. "This could particularly be the case if fungicides are sold based on the rumor of soybean rust occurring in a particular state or soybean growing area within a state."


The partnership USB and NCSRP have with the USDA ipmPIPE allows soybean farmers, extension specialists and industry personnel to have the most up-to-date information on rust by using the ipmPIPE Web site. Also, USB staff works with USDA to make sure U.S. soybean farmers' voices are heard regarding the importance of the ipmPIPE program. The checkoff's efforts to battle soybean rust have paid dividends in the past, and those efforts will continue.


"The checkoff has been way ahead of the curve on soybean rust, because we have been worrying about rust even when it was a remote idea and only found in South America," says Rick Stern, USB Production program chairman and a soybean farmer from Cream Ridge, N.J. "The preventive measures the checkoff has taken allow us to help farmers save money on unnecessary spraying, while still providing helpful monitoring on the spread of rust."


USB is made up of 68 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. Checkoff funds are invested in the areas of animal utilization, human utilization, industrial utilization, industry relations, market access and supply. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.


SOURCE: United Soybean Board.