Erik Stromberg, professor and Extension plant pathologist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, says Asian soybean rust has not been detected in Virginia.

However, there was an increased amount of over-wintering rust inoculum available for initial infections and it over-wintered geographically closer to Virginia than in 2004 and 2005.

He notes that these factors may increase the disease potential in Virginia this growing season. However, very dry conditions this spring throughout the Southeast dramatically slowed soybean rust development, therefore, inoculum levels are thought to be low. Still, recent wet weather increases the potential for the development and movement of this pathogen.

Soybeans are the largest row crop in the state. Virginia soybean producers harvested 510,000 acres in 2005 with an average yield of 30 bushels per acre. The crop’s farm-gate value has ranged from $75 million to $100 million annually.

Stromberg points out that moist conditions favor the development of soybean rust. Last year’s dry conditions in the South and Southeast inhibited its development and the spread in the Southeast.

Virginia Tech began the Virginia Soybean Rust and Aphid Monitoring Program in 2004 with support from the Virginia Soybean Board. This program ensures that an early warning system is in place for soybean rust and soybean aphid so that significant soybean yield losses from these pests are avoided.

Additionally, the program aims to ensure that insecticides and/or fungicides are used judiciously, only when necessary, and at the proper time.

In Virginia, 10 USDA sentinel plots and 41 commercial fields are currently being monitored weekly for soybean rust and soybean aphid. Spore traps are also being monitored in soybean growing areas of the state. Soybeans in sentinel plots are planted early to mature before soybeans in commercial fields in order to provide advance detection capabilities.

The Virginia Soybean Rust and Aphid Monitoring Program is part of the national effort undertaken through the USDA-Pest Information Platform for Extension and Education, which is a federal, state, and university-coordinated framework for surveillance, reporting, prediction, and management of soybean rust and soybean aphid.