ISU Researcher Coordinates Early Warning System for Soybean Rust

April 14th, 2005

X.B. Yang, an Iowa State University plant pathologist, received $389,000 to coordinate sentinel soybean plots in 20 states. The funding will be used to plant and monitor soybean plots and provide an early warning system for Asian soybean rust.

"The goal of this project is to establish a monitoring and early warning system to guide soybean producers in making fungicide application decisions for Asian soybean rust control," Yang said.

The North Central Soybean Research Program and the United Soybean Board funded the two-year project, which started April 1. Researchers in each state will plant 20 sites of early maturing soybeans in 30-square-foot plots. The plots will be scouted intensively and provide an early warning system for growers.

"Soybean plants are more vulnerable to rust after flowering and the sentinel plots will be planted with early maturing varieties to alert researchers and producers if soybean rust is present in the region," Yang said.

Iowa State researchers began planting sentinel plots in Iowa last week. Mark Honeyman, coordinator for the Iowa State research farms, said 11 of Iowa's plots are located on Iowa State research and demonstration farms.

"It's the perfect role for Iowa's public research farms and it is exactly why we are here," Honeyman said. "This is an excellent example of how a land grant university serves the agricultural sector in the state."

Honeyman said the plots were planted early and will be protected, if needed, from frost. The early planting will provide an early-maturing crop that will be more susceptible to soybean rust spores.

"We're going to special efforts to make this happen," Honeyman said. "These plots will be true sentinels and will provide a warning system for Iowa's soybean growers similar to the 'canary in the coal mine.'"

Asian soybean rust is an aggressive fungus that was first detected in the United States in Louisiana in November 2004. Yang said the spread of the disease in the United States is dependent on the amount of soybean rust that survives the winter in Gulf Coast regions and how quickly soybean rust is carried from southern areas by winds.

Yang said producers are currently limited to the use of fungicides to manage soybean rust. If fungicides are applied too early or too late, the application won't be effective. The sentinel plots will help researchers monitor the movement of the disease and allow producers to apply fungicides at the appropriate time.

Honeyman said the public is welcome to visit Iowa's sentinel plots located on research and demonstration farms near Ames, Castana, Chariton, Crawfordsville, Fruitland, Greenfield, Kanawha, Lewis, Nashua, Newell and Sutherland.

States participating in the project include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Minnesota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wisconsin.


X.B. Yang, Plant Pathology, (515) 294-8826,
Mark Honeyman, Research Farms, (515) 294-4621,
Barb McBreen, Agriculture Communications, (515) 294-0707,