November 22, 2004



Asian Soybean Rust Found In Georgia


Asian soybean rust has been found in Georgia as the state performs a field survey following recent findings of the yield-slashing fungus in Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida, the Georgia Department of Agriculture said Friday.


The finding comes from a sample taken from a field in Seminole County, according to a press release on the department's Web site.


Georgia harvested 180,000 acres of soybeans in 2003, and U.S. Department of Agriculture data show it expects the state's harvest this year to total about 230,000 acres.


Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin said in a prepared statement: "This year's crop already had reached maturity, so the yield will not be affected. We're working now to get approval from EPA for using the fungicides that will be effective in reducing the effect this disease has on soybean plants. It is a very manageable disease, but could be very costly. Until soybean rust-resistant varieties become available, we will have to manage any infestation through early detection and the use of several treatment options."


More than 20 states, including Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas and Florida, have already completed the paperwork necessary to use fungicides that don't yet have national approval. The paperwork puts them on a "section 18" emergency exemption list.


EPA officials have said that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's announcement last week that it confirmed the first-ever Asian soybean rust infection in the U.S. triggered the availability of the section 18 fungicides for states that have completed the necessary applications.


"Every county agent that has soybean production has been asked to begin surveys to determine where this disease has spread in Georgia," Irvin said.


The commissioner said that if the fungus is widespread in Georgia, it will not likely survive the winter in most regions of the state, but the department said in its news release that it expects Asian rust to plague crops next year.


"This will more than likely become an annual disease that is reintroduced into Georgia's major soybean producing areas each year," the release said. "The pathogen can infect almost any legume, such as snap beans, peas and clover, which can also serve as alternate hosts. Additional samples are being taken from host plants for testing."


The fungus represents a particularly strong threat to U.S. soybean crops, according a recent analysis made by USDA's Economic Research Service. The study, published in April, concludes that the net economic losses from an outbreak of Asian rust in the U.S. would range from $640 million to $1.3 billion "for the first year of the pathogen's establishment in this country."

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