Soybean rust has been found on kudzu at two new sites in Alabama and one in Georgia, creating concern that more inoculum than originally thought may be surviving this winter than last.

As the last traditional freeze date approaches for central Alabama and Georgia, researchers continue to find isolated pockets of soybean rust surviving on kudzu growing in sheltered areas. With literally thousands of abandoned houses and buildings to provide protection for kudzu in south-central Georgia and Alabama, the concern is that only a fraction of such sites have been located and destroyed.

The two new early-March sites in Alabama were found in Henry and Houston counties, both on kudzu and both in areas protected from weather. In Dothan, in Houston County kudzu was found growing in a tree under a bridge. In Abbeville in Henry County infected kudzu survived sub-freezing temperatures from the shelter of an abandoned gas station.

Henry and Houston counties are in the middle of Alabama’s Wiregrass Region, a predominantly agricultural area in the southeast corner of the State. This area is located approximately 75 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico. The latest findings in southeast Alabama are located approximately 100 miles southeast of Montgomery, where soybean rust was found on kudzu in late February.

Long-range weather forecasts indicate no fronts that could bring sub-freezing temperatures to either area prior to the last traditional freeze date in mid-March.

Though the Wiregrass area is a major agriculture center for the state, soybeans has not been a major crop there since the 1980s. Primary crops are peanuts and cotton, which can provide a natural barrier to the spread of soybean rust.

The site in Georgia is located in Miller County, in the city of Colquitt. Kudzu was found growing on the walls of an abandoned house in the southwest Georgia city. Miller County is on a north-south line roughly parallel to Henry and Houston counties in Alabama.

Like the Alabama counties, Miller County is primarily a peanut and cotton production area. Soybean production between these areas and more popular soybean production areas in Tennessee and the Carolinas is spotty at best.

Other than one find in a soybean test plot in South Texas, rust has been documented in numerous sites in northwest Florida, five counties in Alabama and two in Georgia in 2006.

e-mail: rroberson@prismb2b.com