Iowa’s soybean crop is expected to be worth well over two-billion dollars this year and farmers are warned to stay watchful for a potentially devastational disease called soybean rust. Johnston-based Pioneer Hi-bred International has activated a network of 200 agronomists across the U.S. and Canada to be vigilant for any signs of the crop-destroying rust. Pioneer spokesman Jerry Harrington says the company’s eyes are focused on the Midwest. He says they take a hand-held computer to the field every day, look at the conditions of the corn and soybeans and if there’s a problem or challenge or issue, they’ll mark it on the computer and the entire network is downloaded every day so you can see any trends or special problems. Harrington says all of that data is being archived and Iowa growers can access it via computer at “www.usda.gov/soybeanrust.” So far, he says, the disease is no where near Iowa. This year, there’s been rust seen as far north as Georgia in soybeans. It does over-winter in some climates. Harrington says everyone hopes it won’t be a problem but they’ll be prepared if it does emerge. The rust starts as orange speckles that stand out on the veins and branches of the green soybean leaves. It is thought to have arrived in the U.S. last year in Louisiana — blown here by Hurricane Ivan. The disease has the potential to do very serious damage to the soybean crop, but Harrington says Iowa farmers can keep ahead of it. He says the best bet is to keep your ear to the ground for information and your eye on your crop. Harrington says Pioneer is working with several other groups — from state departments of agriculture, universities and other industry groups — to develop the surveillance, reporting, prediction and management network for rust.
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