November 18, 2004

 

 

Asian Soybean Rust Detected in US Plant Samples
 

Three of four samples tested from an inspection tour in Louisiana Thursday were confirmed as Asian soybean rust, a potentially devastating plant disease, according to officials at the US Department of Agriculture.

 

The samples from three Louisiana parishes provide evidence that this fungal disease, which is spread by wind-borne spores, arrived in this country from South America via Hurricane Ivan, which struck the state about seven weeks ago.

 

"The sample locations indicate a path that matches the wind patterns of Hurricane Ivan," said Dr. Clayton Hollier, an LSU AgCenter plant pathologist and its principal investigator for the Southern Pest Detection Network.

 

The disease has been in South America since 2001. The region is a major soybean-producing area.

 

All evidence of the disease was found on soybean plants. The teams, which included scientists from USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and its Agricultural Research Service, also looked at kudzu - an invasive plant prevalent in Louisiana that can serve as a "host" for the fungus that causes the disease.

 

"It was just a matter of time before we found the disease in this country," said Dr. David Boethel, vice chancellor for research in the LSU AgCenter. "We were the last major soybean-producing country that didn't have it."

 

Asian soybean rust is a fungal disease that interferes with photosynthesis. The plant cannot grow, so yields can be severely restricted.

 

Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Bob Odom said he is confident Louisiana's soybean producers will work with state and federal officials to minimize the effect on soybean yields next growing season.

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