YOU'VE ALL HEARD ABOUT SOYBEAN RUST

If you haven't, someone has sequestered you in a cave for the past year. Since it was detected in Louisiana this past November, there's been talk of little else at state, regional and national farm shows or in coffee shops on main street.

As soybean planting continues, the question becomes: Will farmers treat for rust preventively or curatively — or at all — here in 2005? Only time will tell. But if soybean grower Marco Palmeira Chechia of Ponta Grossa County in Brazil is any example, it might be helpful to learn from his experiment in determining whether to treat for the disease. “We first saw rust last year around here,” he says. “I did test plots. On the land where I treated preventively, there was no loss in yield. Where I treated curatively, there was 30% yield loss. Where I did a test plot with no control products, my yield loss was 70%.”

In a trip I took to Brazil with several other ag journalists in mid March, I learned from the farmers and ag retailers there that rust can be controlled if proper action is taken.

Here's a capsule of comments from several Brazilian farmers and agronomists about Asian soybean rust and how to be prepared for the season ahead.

Ivo Carlos Arent Filho, Tibaji County

Filho farms 13,585 acres of corn and beans. He also owns a bed-and-breakfast, which, he jokingly says, “my wife manages so she won't bother me while I farm.” He is not affiliated with any farmer cooperative but works with an agronomist who consults with 17 other farmers in the area.

“I rely on my agronomist and retailer to help me make buying decisions,” he says. “My agronomist chooses the best products, then closes the deal with the retailer. Together they work on my spraying schedule.” In Brazil, retailers do not custom apply crop protection products. Application is all done by growers.

Filho works with three retailers to buy products but works predominantly with one he's known and trusted for 15 years. “Price is very important to me, but also I want someone who's trustworthy,” he says.

Albertino Perez, farm manager for Henrique and Anselmo Alberti's farm in Tibaji County

An agronomist for the Alberti farm, Perez is in charge of approximately 12,350 acres. About 70% of that land is soybeans. His soybean yields are about 2,850 lbs./acre, when the average for the area is closer to 1,780 lbs./acre.

“I first saw pressure from rust last year,” he says. “It is better to do preventive sprays. By the time growers see rust, it's already here and difficult to control. The earlier you spray the better.”

Perez says nozzle pressure is very important when spraying for rust. “You must reach the soybean plant from top to bottom when you spray because rust works its way from the bottom of the plant to the top,” he explains. “You need the right pressure.”

Perez buys some products from retailers, some direct from the manufacturer. “I buy where I can get the best price,” he says.

Richard Djkstra, Ponta Grossa County

Richard Djkstra's farming acumen is second to none in the area and his leadership skills are known throughout the country. His father Frank introduced no-till farming to Brazil in the mid 1970s. Today, Djkstra carries on the legacy of his father, leading the no-till technology revolution in Brazil, serving on the board of his local farmer cooperative and heading the no-till association. He also is an agronomist.

This is his second year dealing with rust. “We monitor every four days for rust,” he says. “The climate here is good for the potential for rust. We believe we can lose five to six bags [267 lbs./acre] to disease if we don't treat.”

Djkstra, who farms 2,223 acres, works with an agronomist for a second opinion of his farming practices. “It's good to have another idea on how to do things,” he says. “We work with our dealer to determine spraying schedules and whether to use a surfactant.”

Jose Luiz Buss, Rubens Kliewer, Armin Kliewer, Ponta Grossa County

Armin and his son Rubens rely on the expertise of their agronomist (Buss) to help with product selections and agronomic practices.

The Kliewers have land in northern Brazil, where rust has been detected for four years. When asked about concerns with resistance, Buss says, “We're more concerned with efficiency than resistance to products.”

Today, these farmers prefer preventive treatments for rust. In the future, if curative measures become more efficient and economical, they may switch to those treatments. “It all will depend on price,” Armin says.

Willybrordus Sleutjes, Castro County

Sleutjes sprays preventively for rust. This is his second year dealing with the disease. He farms about 2,720 acres of corn and soybeans. He started farming in 1968 with 618 acres. He belongs to Batavo Cooperative, a large farmer cooperative that works with growers managing about 345,800 acres in southern Brazil.

“I believe that rust will appear if I don't spray,” he says. “I will spray a fungicide three times during the season for rust and other diseases [such as powdery mildew].”

In the above photo, Sleutjes (left) talks with agronomist Roberto Moretzsohn de Castro.

Best treatments

Farmers in Brazil advise treating with a triazole plus strobilurin. They have learned that triazoles are a better curative approach (and less expensive). Using a triazole and strobilurin usually results in a longer residual than either alone. A triazole or triazole and strobilurin tankmix is best if the disease shows up early in the season at the vegetative stage.

Brazilian farmers have found a way to manage rust, and U.S. farmers will, too.