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In sentinel plots: Evaluating Asian rust spore traps

A lot of confusion occurred this year regarding rust spore trap captures. The spore trap system was put in place as an aid in monitoring for soybean rust. This monitoring system, sponsored by Syngenta, was put in place in hopes of keeping growers updated on the movement and threat of rust.

Every state had spore traps strategically placed to aid in monitoring spore movement. Each spore trap has a slide smeared with petroleum jelly mounted inside. We have been monitoring these traps bi-weekly throughout the season. As the slides were collected they were sent to Dr. John Rupe at the University of Arkansas. He and his staff evaluated the slides for the presence of rust spores.

Rust is not easily identified. I am not saying that you cannot identify rust, but we hoped the sentinel plots and spore traps would allow us to catch it early prior to affecting the bulk of the crop.

Thankfully rust did not materialize in the Mid-South as many predicted. However, we had numerous calls from all across the state season-long. Everyone was nervous, but as of today, every call was a false alarm. I appreciate those who alerted us and am proud that most looked at their crops more often, but I feel fortunate that these calls were false alarms.

Sentinel plots were beneficial, but the spore traps created some undue confusion. First, no trap capture to date was able to positively ID soybean rust. The lack of a positive ID was due to the number of spores captured. In every instance an insufficient number of spores was present to make a positive ID.

Although reports from spore traps caused some confusion, maybe next year we can use them more effectively. With the confusion that came following the first report in Louisiana, then Tennessee and Kentucky, and finally Illinois, it did become frustrating. Once we saw this trend we decided not to inform you of positive rust finds in spore traps in Mississippi. Alabama also made this decision. We did not report positive findings in spore traps because we could not tell you what we had. It could have been any rust — corn rust, wheat rust, morningglory rust, or even daylily rust.

As of today it appears it was definitely not soybean rust in any of the spore traps. Sentinel plots continue to be valuable tools in Brazil and, based on our efforts in 2005, they will be a part of our rust monitoring efforts in the years to come. We need to rethink how we use spore traps, but I feel they are an additional tool that can be beneficial.

Many of you have called regarding my new job assignment. I appreciate all the positive remarks, but would like to take a moment to explain what has transpired. Dr. Vance Watson, vice president of Agriculture, Forestry, and Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University, asked me if I would assume a temporary role as head of the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center at Verona, Miss. I agreed and officially began this new role on Aug. 15.

Though this is a temporary assignment, it may be something that I or the university would possibly consider making a permanent position in the future. However, for now I will continue to work with the state-wide soybean program, in addition to this new role. I have some excellent people helping me in the soybean arena and they will allow me to fulfill this new assignment. I appreciate your input and support regarding my temporary role in this position.

Alan Blaine is the Mississippi Extension soybean specialist. e-mail: [email protected]

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