December 13, 2004



Argentina's Corrientes Province Discovers Asian Soy Rust


Asian rust, a fast-spreading and very destructive fungal disease, has been found on a soybean field in northeastern Argentina, according to the country's animal and food inspection agency, Senasa.


This is the first confirmed appearance of the disease in 2004. It comes relatively early in the season, when farmers are still planting the crop.


Asian rust made its way into soybean crops in 10 provinces last year, according to Senasa. However, the disease did little damage because it appeared so late in the season, after crops had already matured. This time the rust has arrived early in the first-crop, or Spring, soybeans.


"This does nothing but confirm that this is a problem that is growing," said Daniel Ploper, a plant pathologist and director of a research station in Tucuman province. "This is different from the previous year because this was found in Spring soybeans. It could propagate to other areas if we don't control it well."


Ploper said the rust's pathogen may have survived in Corrientes from the previous year or it may have arrived from neighboring Brazil or Paraguay, where the disease recently appeared.


Last year it cost Brazilian farmers 4.7 million metric tons in lost soy output, according to Brazil's Agriculture Ministry research group Embrapa.


But the mere appearance of the disease in Corrientes doesn't necessarily mean it will cause major problems for Argentine farmers. While the rust can wipe out an entire crop, the disease only thrives under certain conditions.


It requires moderate temperatures and around six hours per day of continuous moisture to spread and cause damage.


"The danger lies in climatic conditions," Ploper said. "For this to be a problem, climatic conditions have to be right. We have confirmation that the pathogen is present, but not how much damage it will cause."


Asian rust can be successfully treated with fungicides.


Some analysts say the disease is prone to spread in climates with climatic conditions such as those common in Corrientes. This makes it less likely the disease will become a problem in Argentina's main soybean belt, most of which is located farther south in less humid areas.


The rust arrived in Brazil and Paraguay in 2001 and in Argentina the following year. It hit Bolivia in 2003 and was found earlier this year in Colombia and Uruguay.

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