The LSU AgCenter has reactivated for the second year an Asian soybean rust hot line so people can call anytime of the day or night, toll-free, to find out the status of this disease in Louisiana. The hot line number is (866) 641-1847.

Asian soybean rust, if not caught early and treated, can spread rapidly and destroy entire soybean fields, said Boyd Padgett, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist.

The disease, which had been gradually spreading around the world, was first discovered in North America in 2004, in a soybean production field on the LSU AgCenter’s Ben Hur Research Farm near Baton Rouge.

So far, the disease has not caused any serious problems in Louisiana or in the rest of the country. But each year since 2004, it has been discovered earlier in the year, which means there is more time for the disease to develop and cause serious damage, Padgett said.

“It has already been confirmed in kudzu in Iberia and St. Mary parishes this year,” Padgett said. Kudzu is a host plant for Asian soybean rust, meaning the disease can survive on kudzu and spread to soybeans.

“The first find this year — in early May — was 53 days ahead of the first find last year,” Padgett said. “That’s significant. That means there’s more chance for an epidemic to develop.”

Padgett is the voice on the hot line, which is paid for by BASF, a company that produces fungicides. This company funded the hot line last year as well.

Plant pathologists from Mississippi State University and the University of Arkansas also provide updated information about their respective states on this hotline. A caller is offered a menu to listen to the state of choice.

The messages are less than a minute and a half and are updated at least weekly.

“We will update the information as often as we have to,” Padgett said.

The message includes the status of any finds and whether conditions are favorable for rust to spread. The message also provides the status of soybean production. Soybean plants are more susceptible to destruction as the pods are forming, Padgett said.

The message also directs callers to their local county agents and agricultural consultants to find out recommendations for treatment, if that becomes necessary.