The North American Plant Disease Forecast Center will end its forecast operations for this year -- and evidently forever -- this Friday, Oct. 20, 2006.

The Center, based at North Carolina State University, has been providing soybean rust spore transport forecasts during the last two seasons, applying methodology honed forecasting the spread of tobacco blue mold and cucurbit downy mildew for many years.

An announcement of the shut-down appeared this morning on the site's home pages for the three diseases, including the one for soybean rust. None of the forecasters was available for comment on the reason for the sudden closing when calls were placed to them this morning.

Here's the full text of the message:

"October 17, 2006: At this time, it is our regrettable duty to inform you that the 2006 growing season will be the last for operations at the North American Plant Disease Forecast Center. Forecasts for 2006 will end October 20, 2006.

"Over the past 11 years, we have been pleased to provide our users with thousands of forecasts for the spread of tobacco blue mold, cucurbit downy mildew and soybean rust. We hope these Web-based forecasts have provided growers, industry, media, and others with useful and timely information in their attempt to manage these important plant disease epidemics. The eyes and ears of many have made our effectiveness possible. We want to thank all of the people and agencies involved for their support and cooperation in this endeavor.

"The Plant Pathology Department is studying new and better ways to provide you information. Forecasting is a rapidly developing area of disease management and we are sure you will hear more about it in the future. We at the Forecast Center have enjoyed and valued the role we have played in this area of science and communication. Our best wishes to those who will continue to make efforts in the disease management arena."
Dr. Charles Main, Professor Emeritus
Thomas Keever, Lead Forecaster/Meteorologist

There was no new soybean rust forecast posted yet for today, Oct. 18, but they normally come out at the end of the day.

SOURCE: Article in based on NAPDFC Web site notice.