December 15, 2004



Second Province in Argentina Detects Asian Soy Rust


The fungal disease Asian rust has been found in soybean crops in a second Argentine province, according to the Agriculture Secretariat on Tuesday.


"In recent days three cases of Asian rust have been detected in soybean crops in northeastern Argentina," the Secretariat said in a statement.


Last week, the disease was found among soybeans in the province of Corrientes, which is home to around 20,000 hectares of the crop.


The disease has now spread to the province of Misiones, which shares a border with Brazil and Paraguay, both of which have confirmed rust appearances.


Asian rust is a fast-spreading and highly destructive disease that can wipe out huge amounts of crop if left untreated. Last year it destroyed 4.7 million metric tons of soy in Brazil, according to Brazil's Agriculture Ministry research group Embrapa.


The rust came relatively early this year, implying that it may have a greater impact on the 2004-05 harvest than it did a year earlier.


"Though the disease had been found in the two previous harvests, and its appearance was highly probable this time around, this is the first time the disease has appeared early in the campaign," the Secretariat said. "Presumably this is because climatic conditions in recent days have been favorable to the disease's development."


Asian rust showed up in 10 provinces last year. Yet, the disease caused little harm because it appeared so late in the season, after crops had already matured.


Far from being mature and ready to harvest now, the 2004-05 crop is still being planted in Corrientes. Misiones has very little soy, but the rust found there could easily spared elsewhere.


Argentine soybeans are normally planted between October and January and harvested from March to July. As of Dec. 10, roughly 75% of the 2004-05 crop had been planted nationwide, according to the Secretariat.


"Given this early detection, we recommend taking extreme precautions, which means being alert and prepared to recognize the symptoms of the disease," the Secretariat said in a warning to local farmers.


Asian rust, which can be successfully treated with fungicides, first 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.


Recently, the disease made its way up to the US, where farmers are concerned it will hinder production next year.

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