Two College of Agriculture and Life Sciences faculty members were involved in award-winning efforts to protect soybean growers from Asian soybean rust, a new disease that threatened the United States soybean crop beginning in 2004. Steve Koenning, research associate professor in plant pathology, and Jim Dunphy, professor of crop science, led efforts in North Carolina to protect growers from the disease. Those efforts were honored recently by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities.
When soybean rust was first seen in the United States, it raised considerable concern because the disease had previously caused soybean yield losses of up to 80 percent in South America.
Soybean rust is a fungal disease spread by windblown spores which require humid, warm weather to germinate. While fungicides are available to control the disease and protect crops, farmers can face difficult decisions regarding when to spray their crops. The soybean rust advisory and sentinel plots tell farmers when soybean rust is a threat and when they should spray their crops. Without this information, farmers have little choice but to spray fungicide on a regular schedule, whether the pesticide is needed or not.
Koenning estimates that advisory efforts save North Carolina farmers about $15 million annually. Read more on the CALS website.