Agriculture Production: USDA Needs to Build on 2005 Experience to Minimize the Effects of Asian Soybean Rust in the Future: GAO-06-337

March 2006
GAO Reports;3/21/2006, p1
Government Document
In 2005, U.S. agriculture faced potentially devastating losses from Asian Soybean Rust (ASR), a fungal disease that spreads airborne spores. Fungicides approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can protect against ASR. In 2005, growers in 31 states planted about 72.2 million soybean acres worth about $17 billion. While favorable weather conditions limited losses due to ASR, it still threatens the soybean industry. In May 2005, GAO described the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) efforts to prepare for ASR's entry, (Agriculture Production: USDA's Preparation for Asian Soybean Rust, GAO-05-668R). This report examines (1) USDA's strategy to minimize ASR's effects in 2005 and the lessons learned to improve future efforts and (2) USDA, EPA, and others' efforts to develop, test, and license fungicides for ASR and to identify and breed soybeans that tolerate it. USDA developed and implemented a framework--with federal and state agencies, land grant universities, and industry--that effectively focused national attention on ASR in 2005 and helped growers make informed fungicide decisions. The framework was effective in several ways. For example, sentinel plots--about 2,500 square feet of soybeans or other host plants planted early in the growing season in the 31 soybean-producing states--provided early warning of ASR. Officials in 23 of 25 states GAO surveyed reported that this effort was effective. Researchers could also promptly identify and report on the incidence and severity of the disease on a USDA Web site, alerting officials and growers to ASR's spread. Going forward, however, differences in how researchers monitor, test, and report on the disease could lead to incomplete or inaccurate data and detract from the value of future prediction models. For example, models to forecast ASR's spread partly rely on states' observations of sentinel plots. USDA asked states to report results weekly, but updates ranged from 4 reports, in total, during the growing season in one state to 162 reports in another state. Inconsistencies also occurred in the designation and placement of plots and in the testing of samples for ASR. Further, changes to the successful management approach employed by USDA in 2005 raise questions about how the program will perform in 2006. For 2006, most operational responsibility for ASR will shift from USDA headquarters to a land grant university. GAO is concerned that USDA's lack of a detailed action plan describing how program responsibilities will be assumed and managed in 2006 could limit the effectiveness of ASR management for this year. EPA, USDA, and others increased the number of fungicides growers can use to combat ASR while efforts continue to develop ASR-tolerant soybeans. As of December 2005, EPA had approved 20 fungicides for treating ASR on soybeans, including 12 that had emergency exemptions. According to officials in the nine states where ASR was confirmed in 2005, growers had access to fungicides. USDA, universities, and private companies are also developing ASR-tolerant soybeans and have identified 800 possible lines of resistant soybeans, out of a total of 16,000 lines. USDA estimates it may take 5 to 9 years to develop commercially available ASR-tolerant soybeans.


Related Articles

  • Ready for rust. Hest, David // Apply;Feb2007, Vol. 7 Issue 2, p8 

    The article reports on the release of the Topguard fungicide and the release of existing fungicides with upgraded labels in the U.S. market. Topguard has a strong track record for controlling Asian soybean rust in South America. The four fungicides that will be released with labels upgraded from...

  • Rust fears lessen, drought a factor. Bennett, David // Southeast Farm Press;10/5/2005, Vol. 32 Issue 23, p22 

    Reports on the factors that affects the yield of soybeans in Georgia. Damages caused by soybean rust to the crops; Possibilities for drought to cause more damage to the crops; Potential decrease in yield due to lack of rain.

  • Now if only it would kill the kudzu... Laws, Forrest // Southeast Farm Press;11/17/2004, Vol. 31 Issue 26, p4 

    The article reports that soybean rust can be devastating, some untreated fields in Zimbabwe lost 80 percent of their yield. But early, effective fungicide programs have kept losses in the 20-percent range. Soybean rust started in Japan and spread slowly. It was discovered in Paraguay and Brazil...

  • Agriculture Production: USDA's Preparation for Asian Soybean Rust: GAO-05-668R. Robinson, Robert A. // GAO Reports;5/17/2005, p1 

    In November 2004, Asian Soybean Rust (ASR) was discovered in the United States in Louisiana. In the following weeks, it was found in eight additional southern states. ASR is a harmful fungal disease that has spread throughout many other parts of the world, including Asia, Australia, Africa, and...

  • New test determines viability of soybean rust spores. Jongeneel, Susan // Southwest Farm Press Exclusive Insight;12/19/2012, p10 

    The article discusses a method developed by University of Illinois researchers to determine whether these spores from Asian soybean rust (Phakopsora pachyrhizi) are viable. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist and crop sciences professor Glen...

  • USDA unveils soybean rust Web site.  // Southeast Farm Press;4/13/2005, Vol. 32 Issue 11, p13 

    The article reports that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has launched an Asian Soybean Rust Web site to provide soybean farmers with information and guidance on the disease. The website www.usda.gov/soybeanrust will he part of a national soybean rust plant disease surveillance...

  • USDA expands national soybean rust risk management tool.  // Southwest Farm Press;11/17/2005, Vol. 32 Issue 22, p39 

    This article reports that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is funding projects to track the spread of soybean rust. The department is also funding the creation of the Pest Information Platform for Extension and Education to provide producers with information about additional legume...

  • SEED SALES. Grooms, Lynn // Farm Industry News;May/Jun2005, Vol. 38 Issue 6, p16 

    Presents an update on the agricultural industry in the U.S. as of May 2005. Estimated acres of corn to be planted in 2005 according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Expected trends in the industry, including a greater use of seed treatments by growers; Response of growers to the hybrids...

  • Soybean rust found in Colombia.  // BEEF;Oct2004, Vol. 41 Issue 2, p80 

    Reports on United States Department of Agriculture plant pathologists' confirmation of a case of Asian soybean rust near Cali, Colombia. Signal of the advancement of spores toward the continental U.S.; Comments of American Soybean Association chairman Ron Heck on the destructive potential of the...


Read the Article

Other Topics