ST. LOUIS -- While soybean rust was not a major challenge for most U.S. farmers in 2005, relaxing against the threat of rust could be a mistake in 2006. The more information on rust, the easier it will be to control, which is why soybean checkoff farmer-leaders approved funds for additional sentinel plots to monitor the spread of soybean rust.

Together the United Soybean Board (USB) and the North Central Soybean Research Program (NCSRP) will help establish sentinel plots from south to north in the Soybean Belt to monitor northward movement of soybean rust for early detection and early warning for soybean farmers. These plots will complement those established by the USDA.

Timely detection of the disease can provide U.S. farmers with enough advanced warning to enable proper application of fungicides, the only effective management option for soybean rust at this time. Fungicides applied too late may be ineffective, and applications made too early could result in decreased efficacy and could result in the need for increased numbers of applications. Also, unnecessary treatments will result in higher input costs, hurting profitability.

Between USDA, USB and NCSRP, there will be a total of 20 sentinel plots established in most states. The checkoff will fund plots located in states where researchers believe USDA plot numbers may be insufficient. The number of additional plots in each state varies according to the number being funded by USDA funds.

"The additional sentinel plots will be a great tool in our checkoff's fight against soybean rust," says Kathy Patton Strunk, a member of USB's Rust Initiative Team and soybean farmer from Silver Lake, Kan. "The soybean checkoff remains vigilant in the fight against soybean rust to protect soybean farmers from the yield-robbing disease."

"We believe the sentinel plots saved soybean producers millions of dollars from unnecessary fungicide applications in 2005," says Gregg Fujan, NCSRP President and soybean farmer from Weston, Neb. "The sentinel plots are the epicenter of an intense checkoff-funded detection and monitoring system involving hundreds of people. Through their efforts, we were able to say with certainty where rust had been confirmed, bypassing any unnecessary fungicide application based on the electronic rumor mill."

In addition to funding the sentinel plots, the checkoff provides funding for other activities to inform farmers about the challenges of soybean rust. For example, this year the checkoff is funding research to search for rust resistance in soybean varieties and to investigate field-friendly diagnosis and early detection through sampling rainfall for rust spores.

Last year, USB identified soybean rust as a short-term emerging issue and created a special Soybean Rust Initiative run by soybean farmers to address short-term needs to help U.S. soybean farmers minimize crop damage as a result of soybean rust.

Since rust was first identified in Brazil in 2001, the soybean checkoff has cumulatively invested nearly $5.5 million in rust research, including more than $3.3 million for research in 2005 and 2006. The checkoff has developed two diagnostic guides and a rust management guide that include information on rust, available at

The soybean checkoff co-sponsors the comprehensive soybean rust Web sites and, where soybean farmers can find the latest information on soybean rust. USB also provides supplemental funding to Qualified State Soybean Boards for in-state rust detection and prevention activities.

"As someone who has experienced rust firsthand, I think it is very important to continue to fund rust research and communications activities," says Billy Wayne Sellers, USB director and soybean farmer from Baxley, Ga. "I survived having soybean rust, thanks to information and research funded in part by soybean checkoff programs."

The North Central Soybean Research Program is composed of farmer-leaders from 12 state checkoff boards who invest checkoff dollars in coordinated, managed, production-related research.

The USB is made up of 64 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 Customer Information Act, USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.

SOURCE: Joint news release from United Soybean Board and the North Central Soybean Research Program.