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News Release

Release No. 0117.06
Ed Loyd (202) 720-4623
Claude Knighten (301) 734-5271

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WASHINGTON, April 3, 2006--The U.S. Department of Agriculture today released a report that evaluates the early warning system for soybean rust surveillance, reporting, prediction and management during the 2005 growing season and concludes that information provided as part of the system helped to increase profits and mitigate damage caused by the fungus.

"Last spring USDA launched an early warning system to help ensure producers have easy access to all the best information and guidance on soybean rust," said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns. "I'm pleased that our efforts have been successful and even contributed to increased producers' income. I encourage producers to continue their vigilance this year and use the soybean rust web site to help make informed decisions in managing soybean rust."

The report, "The Value of Plant Disease Early Warning Systems: A Case Study of USDA's Soybean Rust Coordinated Framework," examines the system that provides real-time, county-level forecasts of soybean rust detections in the United States to provide timely forecasts of soybean rust infections that could reduce yields.

USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) conducted the case study to evaluate the effectiveness of the coordinated framework, or early warning system. The study estimates that the information provided by federal, state, industry and academic partners increased U.S. soybean producers' profits by a total of $11 million to $299 million in 2005, or between 16 cents and $4.12 per acre.

In 2002, USDA implemented a strategic plan in anticipation of a potential soybean rust find in the U.S., which established priorities of protection, detection, response and recovery. USDA agencies, including the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service; the Risk Management Agency and the Agricultural Research Service, partnered with soybean industry organizations, state departments of agriculture and many in the research and scientific communities to launch a coordinate framework.

Central to the coordinated framework is the USDA soybean rust Web site, according to the report. The one-stop federal resource provides farmers, crop consultants and others timely information on the extent and severity of soybean rust outbreaks and gives users up-to-date forecasts on where soybean rust is likely to appear.

The study uses USDA data on historical soybean yields, data from USDA's Agricultural Resource Management Survey, estimated soybean rust damages from Brazil and Paraguay, and spore dispersion estimates based on an aerobiology analysis and historical experience with wheat stem rust. Using National Agricultural Statistic Service data, information from a Government Accounting Office (GAO) soybean rust report and research conducted by agricultural analysts, ERS also concluded that the timely soybean rust forecasts mitigated damage through preventive management activities, which included fungicide application recommendations.

The GAO report released in March also praised USDA's efforts to provide timely information on Asian soybean rust detections. That report revealed that cooperators did a solid job of monitoring the disease and preparing America's farmers to handle outbreaks.

Soybean rust is caused by either of two fungal species, Phakopsora pachyrhizi, also known as the Asian species, and Phakopsora meibomiae, the New World species. The Asian species, first found in Louisiana in 2004, is the more aggressive of the two species, causing more damage to soybean plants. During the 2005 growing season, the fungus was found in 9 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. In the current growing season, it has been found in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Texas.

To view the USDA report, visit the ERS Web site at

The one-stop resource,, provides timely information on the extent and severity of soybean rust outbreaks in the United States, Caribbean basin and Central America. It provides users up-to-date forecasts on where soybean rust is likely to appear in the United States, reports where the disease exists by county, refers growers to county extension agents nationwide, lists the National Plant Diagnostic Networks laboratories and links to other web sites to give producers effective disease management options.