Soybean growers who fear the infestation of rust should be able to follow the path of the fungus in the U.S. through Internet maps from Iowa State University (ISU). The university received a $900,000 grant to develop and operate a Web-based system that will detect, identify, map and predict the spread of rust and other plant diseases. The researchers will first focus on Asian soybean rust.

USDA provided the three-year grant to ISU. Forrest Nutter, ISU plant epidemiologist, will lead the project. The ISU researchers will use a nationwide database of plant disease samples to track the pests and then produce a real-time pest risk map. They then hope to predict where the pests may spread.

“In the case of Asian soybean rust, it will provide information to growers so they don't apply fungicides too early or too late,” Nutter says. He has used the technology to develop this map service in Brazil.