Producers weathered the first growing year of soybean rust on U.S. soil in 2005. A new report out from USDA's Economic Research Service found that the early warning system for soybean rust surveillance, reporting, prediction and management during the 2005 growing season helped increase profits and mitigate damage caused by the fungus.
The study, "The Value of Plant Disease Early Warning Systems: A Case Study of USDA's Soybean Rust Coordinated Framework," estimates that the information provided by federal, state, industry and academic partners increased U.S. soybean producers' profits by a total of $11 million to $299 million in 2005, or between 16 cents and $4.12 per acre.
Central to the coordinated framework is the USDA soybean rust Web site, according to the report. The one-stop federal resource provides farmers, crop consultants and others timely information on the extent and severity of soybean rust outbreaks and gives users up-to-date forecasts on where soybean rust is likely to appear.
The study uses USDA data on historical soybean yields, data from USDA's Agricultural Resource Management Survey, estimated soybean rust damages from Brazil and Paraguay, and spore dispersion estimates based on an aerobiology analysis and historical experience with wheat stem rust. Using National Agricultural Statistic Service data, information from a Government Accounting Office (GAO) soybean rust report and research conducted by agricultural analysts, ERS also concluded that the timely soybean rust forecasts mitigated damage through preventive management activities, which included fungicide application recommendations.
The GAO report released in March also praised USDA's efforts to provide timely information on Asian soybean rust detections. That report revealed that cooperators did a solid job of monitoring the disease and preparing America's farmers to handle outbreaks.
The Asian species, first found in Louisiana in 2004, is the more aggressive of the two species, causing more damage to soybean plants. During the 2005 growing season, the fungus was found in 9 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. In the current growing season, it has been found in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Texas.