The American Soybean Association (ASA) and its 25,000 members are celebrating the announcement that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will again fund projects to provide for the early detection, diagnosis, and tracking of the spread of Asian soybean rust in the 2006 growing season.

This nationally coordinated network also will help producers in making crop management decisions that reduce pesticide input costs, reduce environmental exposure to pesticides and increase the efficiency and efficacy of pesticide applications.

"This is an important victory for the American Soybean Association," said ASA President Bob Metz, a soybean producer from West Browns Valley, S.D. "ASA has worked closely with USDA, urging the need to again fund the soybean rust sentinel plots, mobile team monitoring program and online reporting system that provides producers with timely information that is essential to combating the disease."

Ever since soybean rust was first discovered in the continental United States on Nov. 10, 2004, the ASA worked tirelessly to get such a system funded and established. This year, hundreds of sentinel plots dispersed throughout the U.S. soybean production area were in place to provide growers with a soybean rust early warning system.

When a sentinel plot is positioned next to a commercial soybean field, rust is typically found in the sentinel plot weeks before it shows up in the commercial field. This shows that the sentinel plots system is an effective indicator and a valuable safety net for soybean producers.

The system helped growers avoid unnecessary spraying, and were advised by state experts of the optimal time to apply a fungicide when such an application was warranted.

The risk management tool component of the network is an online, real-time data system that allows growers and their advisors to access the latest information, to the county level, of where there are confirmed disease and/or pest outbreaks. The mapping tool will include frequently updated commentaries from state Extension specialists and national specialists discussing immediate and projected risks and control options. USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA) funded this $2.4 million component.

ASA and Doane Agricultural Services have also established a rust management resource at www.SoyRAP.com to complement USDA’s soybean rust risk management tool, which is available online at www.sbrusa.net. The free SoyRAP Web site features advice and commentary from certified crop advisors from around the nation to augment the pesticide application guidance from state extension specialists that is also featured.

USDA will continue to conduct teleconferences, workshops and organize extension field visits to prepare first detectors to scout for pest and disease problems, to obtain diagnostic confirmation when a suspected problem is found and to manage the information for timely incorporation into the risk management map.

ASA and USDA have already scheduled a series of grower rust education meetings around the country during January 2006.

In 2004, the disease quickly spread all the way to Missouri after it entered the continental U.S. following Hurricane Ivan in September. Fortunately, rust did not significantly impact the 2004 crop because it had already reached maturity in most of the U.S.

In 2005, the first detection of rust was made in late February, and there was aggressive sporulating on kudzu plants. Yet, by late October, the disease had not even reached Tennessee.

"This year, U.S. soybean producers were very fortunate," said ASA’s Bob Metz. "The weather conditions throughout most of the year were about as unfavorable for soybean rust as they could be. However, based on what we know about rust in other countries, we will not be that lucky every year. ASA thanks USDA and all the cooperating agencies for helping to protect our soybean crop."

USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES), RMA, and Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) are working together to implement the system. CSREES is implementing its part of the system through its land-grant university partners, the Cooperative Extension System, the Regional Integrated Pest Management Centers, and the National Plant Diagnostic Network.