Asian Soybean Rust remains one of the top areas of discussion at the 2005 Commodity Classic in Austin, Texas, and this morning the United Soybean Board briefed the media on the group's efforts on the issue. The organization is investing funds and working with key regulatory and research players to prepare for the disease. It's work that started in 2001 when rust first showed up in Brazil.
"We've spent $1.8 million since 2001 and we've taken a two-tiered approach. First, we worked to make sure there would be fungicides available when the disease arrived. Second, we've worked to test for rust resistant varieties," says Greg Anderson, chairman of the United Soybean Board.
Jim Sallstrom, chairman of the production committee for USB and a Winthrop, Minn., soybean producer, notes that it took three years to screen more than 21,000 soybean varieties. The effort netted 800 lines with at least partial resistance to the disease, which are now available to public and private breeders for further development. However, it may take as long as seven years to get commercial lines, he says.
"It's a good thing we started that effort in 2001, since it took three years to do the screening. If we were just starting that now we would be so far behind," he says. The longer timeframe came in part because soybean rust testing can only done in a specialized containment facility and it's not large enough for extended large-scale testing.
The good news so far is that frost this winter went much farther south than usual, which may have given the market a breather. Anderson notes that so far no soybean rust has been found in host crops since winter - at least so far.
If rust does spread into the crop in 2005, notification for affected regions will be Web based. USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is developing a new Web site that will report lab data on rust at a township level.
Says Sallstrom: "We got a look at the new Web site this week and you'll be able to go backwards then run the information to watch a progression of the disease. That way a grower can know whether it's moving his way. Or local experts can offer treatment recommendations."
The site isn't publicly available yet, but when it is it will be the key link for anyone interested in the arrival, and spread of the disease. APHIS is already committed to 300 sentinel plots to help spot the spread, and a spore tracking project is in the works too. That way growers may get a quick heads up on the issue.