Virginia Tech has created a new website to help keep the state's soybean producers informed about the status of the devastating fungus Asian Soybean Rust.

The soybean rust website, http://www.ppws.vt.edu/ipm/soybeanrust/index.htm, is one of the first steps in the Soybean Rust Taskforce plan to protect soybean producers in Virginia from the fungus. Soybean’s value in Virginia has ranged from $75 million to $100 million annually.

The site has information to help producers manage the disease should it be found in Virginia. Soybean rust has been identified in several Southern states including Florida and Georgia this spring. The site will be updated with research-based information on topics such as identification, scouting, and disease management. It offers links with other major sources of information including the U.S. Department of Agriculture rust tracking and the North American Plant Disease Forecast Center. Soybean producers will have access to the latest information and recommendations through the Virginia Tech website, said Erik Stromberg, interim head, of the Department of Plant Pathology and Physiology and Extension Plant Pathologist, in Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Last year, agricultural leaders, including those in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, began planning to assist Virginia soybean producers. The disease is spread primarily by wind-borne spores and was found last growing season in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, and South Carolina in addition to the first identification of it in Louisiana. The fungus can survive the winter on kudzu, a plant that grows abundantly in the south.

The Soybean Rust Taskforce has already provided programs to train "scouts" who will work in 80 to 100 Virginia fields from June to September. They will provide the alert for the early warning system. Last year, there were educational sessions for Extension agents, crop advisers, and others as well as grower education meetings in Suffolk and Warsaw, said David Holshouser, soybean agronomist at the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Suffolk.

The early warning provided by the scouting system in the Southern United States will permit growers to act only when necessary. The primary tool for growers is the use of fungicides, which are costly and will not be effective if applied too early. Research continues on finding resistant varieties.