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Rustlike spores detected in Illinois

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[AUG. 4, 2005]  URBANA -- A spore trap in Champaign County has turned up four rustlike spores, but plant pathologists are quick to say that this finding does not mean we have Asian soybean rust infection in Illinois.

"No infected plants have been found, and the spores are the shape of fungal rust spores but they have not yet been identified as Asian soybean rust," said Suzanne Bissonnette, U of I Extension educator in integrated pest management

She says cooperators in Illinois have been monitoring spore traps and monitoring sentinel field plots throughout the 2005 growing season. The purpose of the monitoring has been to assist growers in the state to make economic and environmentally sound soybean rust management decisions and to serve as a pre-warning to increase infield soybean scouting from a weekly schedule to a three-day schedule in vulnerable areas.

"The word 'rust' refers to a huge family of fungi that infect plants," Bissonnette said. "There are many hundreds of species of rust that infect green plants. For example, we have fungal rust species that infect corn and some that infect wheat and some that infect hollyhocks, and the list goes on and on.

"Fungi in the rust family have numerous microscopic features that look similar, and thus they are organized into the rust family for purposes of identification by a mycologist or plant pathologist."

Throughout the state, plant pathologists have been sampling the air for Asian soybean rust spores, using windsock spore traps. And although rustlike spores were found last week using a microscopic examination, it doesn't mean that those spores are Asian soybean rust.

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At this time, Bissonnette says that U of I Extension recommendations are that farmers south of Champaign County in Illinois and within a 200-mile radius begin diligent scouting for Asian soybean rust on a three-day schedule.

"Check the lower half of 20 plants in five locations in a contiguous field. Suspicious samples consisting of 20 leaflets wrapped in a paper towel should be double-bagged in zip-locked bags and brought to your local Extension unit office for pre-evaluation by diagnosticians to determine if further testing at the U of I Plant Clinic is necessary.

"Our recommendation at this time is not to spray fungicides for Asian soybean rust; no infection has been found," Bissonnette said.

The official UDSA soybean rust reporting website at has reported the detection of "rustlike" spores in a number of states to the south of Illinois, such as Tennessee and Kentucky, and both have yet to find infection. Asian soybean rust plant infection has been detected this season only in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia.

"So don't overreact to the spore findings in Illinois," Bissonnette said. "But it would still be wise to redouble your soybean scouting efforts. You will save yourself time, money and will be a continuing good steward to the land by getting the right information before reacting."

[University of Illinois Extension news release]

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