In recent weeks, a lot of information has surfaced regarding Asian soybean rust. Many of you may be more confused than need be, but it is good that it has heightened everyone's awareness.

The first couple of years will be a steep learning curve for most. It will take a couple of growing seasons to get comfortable with our approach to rust, and in the short term there is the question regarding availability of fungicide products. We are in the process of ranking labeled products for efficacy, but this will be based on others' experience (at first).

We are often guilty of comparing ourselves to Brazil. In my opinion this would be comparable to a worst-case scenario.

Brazil has little winter weather and grows many susceptible crops year-round. Their inoculum potential will be much greater. There may be years that the disease does not overwinter in the United States.

We can, therefore, expect rust to act differently here than it does in other areas.

Scouting will be difficult. I hope our sentinel plots (early-planted soybeans) in the South will prove beneficial.

Early on, misuse of certain terms has caused unneeded confusion. Terms such as “systemic,” “eradicant” and “curative” have been misused.

Systemic will be overstated, but we will try to help you better understand the various products over the next few weeks.

Another term, eradicant, should be completely eliminated. Consider this: If an eradicant exists, why all the hype about controlling rust?

Numerous efforts have taken place behind the scenes. The Mid-South states — Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee — have joined together to tackle Asian rust. We have launched a regional Web site (www.soyrust.org) that will allow you to stay updated on your state's control strategies and to monitor rust progression. This site is linked to a nationwide USDA database that will track the movement of rust and give you access to various predictive models. I believe you will find the Web site to be very informative.

I have received numerous calls this winter regarding what to do about rust. Questions about varieties, maturity groups and planting dates are most frequently asked.

I have tried to relay to you in layman's terms our experiences regarding early planting. The Mid-South would be better off if we planted our entire soybean crop prior to planting cotton (exceptions being double-cropped acreage and land susceptible to flooding).

I continue to hear comments about spreading your risks, varying maturity groups, and planting later to avoid rust. This may prove to be true, but I doubt it.

Let me set the stage: I do not know anyone who has consistently cut lower yields by planting early. Many growers utilizing earlier planting dates are now producing 40 to 50 bushels consistently. If you plant in late May to early June in an attempt to avoid rust, your yields (dryland) will drop 10 to 20 bushels per acre.

Shoot for the highest yield potential you can. Sometime, you might have to spray more due to early planting (maybe not), but you will be financially better able to combat rust making 40 to 50 bushels than by making 20 bushels per acre.

Let's use our heads. Too many people make half-hearted comments that cause others to second-guess their plans. Many inputs contribute to higher yields. There are many tricks to producing high yields, but late May/June planting is not one of them. At times we may be forced into that planting window, but that would be the only way I would commit to it.

We have heard said many times: “Let's go back to the good old days.” Someone else can have them; I, for one, am not interested.


Alan Blaine is the Mississippi Extension soybean specialist. e-mail: ablaine@pss.msstate.edu