Asian soybean rust is a foliar disease, notes Glen Hartman, a plant pathologist at the University of Illinois who is heavily involved in preparing the U.S. for its arrival, “and tillage per se should not interact with rust incidence or severity.”
That means no-tillers, like their conventional tillage neighbors, stand directly in the path of the potentially devastating disease.
The disease was first found in Asia in the early 1900s. It was in Australia by the 1930s, in Africa by 1998 and in South America in 2000. And it’s headed this way.
“Soybean rust is inevitably going to show up in the U.S. We escaped the bullet for the past growing season, but I won’t put any money on 2004,” warns Monte Miles, a plant pathologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service.
Though no one can be sure if this is the year, researchers and ag industry officials are unanimous about the inevitability of soybean rust’s arrival. The real question is, how ready will U.S. farmers be to cope with the potentially devastating disease?
Jim Peters, a fungicide brand manager for Syngenta Crop Protection who is watching the situation closely, worries that growers will miss the early signs of infestation because many don’t scout their fields often enough or closely enough.
“A lot of them are in the habit of drive-by scouting,” he says, “but if you can see it from the road, you’re way too late.”
Allison Tally, a Syngenta…