My colleague David Bennett, who works for Delta Farm Press, and I were dubbed the unofficial Asian Soybean Rust (ASR) experts several years back when the disease seemed destined to regularly decimate soybean crops in the Southeast and Delta.
Over the years we’ve both written about the ‘non-impact’ the disease has had on our respective regions of the country.
This year the hype is a little different — seems ASR is breaking records of sorts. My friend and long-time rust watcher Jim Dunphy in North Carolina puts out a regular Asian Soybean Rust Advisory for farmers.
He writes, “Rust has progressed at a faster rate this year than in years past. With a late soybean crop, the odds on whether growers will need to apply fungicides increase. Now is the time to check spray equipment and be sure to have the proper nozzles for applying fungicides.”
Dunphy, who is an Extension Soybean Specialist at North Carolina State University adds, “We do not recommend spraying soybeans that have not started blooming with a fungicide to control Asiatic soybean rust. Such pre-bloom applications have seldom improved yields. Once soybeans start blooming, we would recommend spraying if rust has been confirmed within 100 miles of the field.”
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He is a member of a group of soybean specialists, plant pathologists, meteorologists, and Extension ag agents that I call the “Rust Army”. I’m sure a similar dedicated group of ag professionals keeps similar vigil in the Delta and throughout all soybean producing areas of the country.
The Rust Army will face some significantly different challenges this year in the Upper Southeast. For starters, as Dunphy mentions, the rust has over-wintered farther north than ever before and has reached areas of the Southeast earlier than ever before.
Weather is a bigger problem
A bigger problem is the weather. By the time ASR gets to soybeans in the Upper Southeast, it’s usually too late for the disease to do much damage to the soybean crop. This year, soybeans have been planted in larger numbers at later dates than any time since ASR has been a problem.
Late planted beans create another obstacle for the Rust Army. Input costs are at a record high and it has been well documented that late-planted beans just don’t have the yield potential as conventionally-planted beans. Whether growers will risk exposing beans planted in mid- and late-July to rust, remains to be seen.
The latest USDA Rust Advisory indicates the disease has been confirmed in commercial soybean fields in South Carolina. Specific counties include: Calhoun, Colleton, and Hampton. These counties are in what locals refer to as “below the lake” and are in the southeastern part of the state.
In South Carolina, another veteran member of the Rust Army, John Mueller, has issued the call to growers in most parts of the state to spray for rust. Though the marching orders have been issued, whether growers heed the warning of the Rust Army is another matter.
Mueller is a plant pathologist at Clemson University and director of the Edisto Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Blackville, S.C.
Despite an overload of administrative responsibilities this time of year, Mueller monitors the progress of rust on its annual south to north trek into soybean producing areas of the Upper Southeast.
When Mueller says spray for a disease, South Carolina growers typically heed to the command. Again, this year is an atypical year and whether growers will spend the money to protect low potential beans is another issue.
What growers will or won’t do is always cloudy at best, but this year they have a clear call to treat soybeans to combat or prevent Asian soybean rust in much of the Southeast.
Whether they do or don’t, the Rust Army is clearly ready with information on what to spray, when to spray it and generally has the answer to Asian soybean rust. Putting this information to best use is now up soybean growers.
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