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October 13, 2006

Asian Soybean Rust Confirmed In Illinois

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Asian soybean rust has been detected in Illinois, the state Department of Agriculture (IDOA) announced today.
Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke told an Asian soybean rust research planning meeting that a USDA lab in Beltsville, Md., confirmed the presence of the fungal disease on soybean leaf samples collected in a University of Illinois test plot adjacent to a sentinel plot in Pope County.
“This discovery, this late in the growing season, will have no impact on the 2006 soybean crop,” Hartke said.  “If the fungus had arrived here earlier, when beans were developing and setting pods, it potentially could have caused significant production losses.  Fortunately, the crop has matured, harvest is nearing completion and no damage will occur.”
Pope County is located in southeast Illinois along the Kentucky border, where rust was detected last Friday in seven counties.  The wind-borne spores that cause the disease are believed to have blown into the region from the southern United States about two weeks ago.
Asian soybean rust now has infected 113 counties in ten states this year.  The Illinois and Kentucky cases are the northern-most detections.
“Our best defense against soybean rust is a hard frost,” Jim Larkin, IDOA Soybean Rust Program manager, said.  “The disease simply cannot survive this far north without a green, living host.”
 Asian soybean rust (Phakopsora pachyrhizi) causes small, pustular lesions on the foliage and pods of more than 95 plant species, including soybeans.  It also infects kudzu, an exotic nuisance weed present in southern Illinois.  While the health of the kudzu plant is not severely impacted by the disease, it serves as a reservoir for the soybean rust pathogen.
The disease was first recorded in Japan in 1903 and identified for the first time in the Western Hemisphere in Hawaii in 1994. It was confirmed in the continental United States in 2004, the same year Illinois adopted a comprehensive plan to identify and control the disease.  The plan, a coordinated effort between the Illinois Soybean Association, University of Illinois, Southern Illinois University, National Soybean Research Center, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Illinois Department of Agriculture, emphasizes early detection and timely fungicide applications.
“The soybean checkoff has taken a lead in Asian soybean rust research and appreciates the working relationship that has developed between these agencies,” Bryan Hieser, Chair of the ISA Supply Committee, said.  “Through the efforts of the coordination committee, all the pieces came together and we were able to disseminate the positive find in a timely manner.”
The University of Illinois Plant Clinic diagnosed rust on the leaf samples Oct. 11 and sent them to the Beltsville lab for confirmatory testing.  Results came back positive today (Oct. 13).  Scouts now are surveying other fields to determine the severity and extent of the infestation.
Asian soybean rust is of particular concern to Illinois farmers because of the damage it can cause.  Soybeans are a lucrative, $3 billion cash crop in the state, and yield losses in countries where the fungus has gone undetected and untreated have been as high as 80 percent.


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