Soybean rust isn't taking any holidays. The first report of the disease in 2009 was logged Jan. 1, in Lee County, Fla., on kudzu. Additional positive confirmations have been lighting up the map ever since.
The good news for farmers is there is still a way to track disease outbreaks. The online monitoring system called ipmPIPE has been taken off the endangered list, where it was placed because of lack of funding.
Heralded as a progressive diagnostic management tool, the Web-based service was originally built to track and advise farmers about soybean rust. Since then, it has been expanded to provide real-time information on soybean aphids, cucumber downy mildew, pecan nut casebearer, and pests and diseases of legume crops.
Marty Draper, national program leader for plant pathology with the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES), says a patchwork of funds has saved the program through the 2009 production season.
Draper says both the United Soybean Board and North Central Soybean Research Program are supporting the scouting and monitoring program. CSREES found enough funding to keep most of the Web site and analysis services alive. The Risk Management Agency has also contributed funding to help with costs associated with the new legume, cucurbit and pecan portions of the service.
"The bottom line is the ipmPIPE will survive one more year, but there are a lot of Band-Aids on the body," Draper says. "The soybean rust efforts are most vulnerable since they have been under way for longer than other portions of the program. Nonetheless, they serve as the proving ground for most of what is being done to forecast pest risk."
Last year, the soybean rust pathogen was found in 16 states. In 2008, soybean aphids went west—reaching Wyoming, the westernmost cultivation of soybeans in the U.S. Texas, Florida and the Carolinas are the only states where aphids have not been found and/or verified.
Soybean aphids migrating from soybeans to buckthorns, where overwintering eggs are deposited, exceeded any seen in previous years. Predators can have a major impact on soybean aphid populations, but the pest is straying from normal behavior and monitoring is critical.
"This Web site was developed as a resource to help growers plan what actions need to be taken—rather than merely reacting to what they think might be happening," Draper says. "The ipmPIPE has proven itself as an important resource that helps the grower and the environment."
You can e-mail Pam Smith at email@example.com.