March 18, 2005 | By: Laura Skillman

A network of sentinel plots across the United States and Canada is being established to aid in the early detection of soybean rust. Kentucky will have at least 20 of these plots located throughout soybean growing regions.

“We want producers to feel comfortable in that we are doing all we can to prepare for the possible onset of this disease,” said Don Hershman, plant pathologist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

The plots are part of the National Soybean Rust Sentinel and Monitoring Network, a U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service project.

“A sentinel plot is either a small plot specifically planted as such or it is part of a grower’s field,” he said. “The point is they need to be planted early with an early maturing variety in order to get the plants to canopy as quickly as possible, which encourages soybean rust development if the spores are in the area. The whole point of a sentinel plot is to detect soybean rust if it is in the area as soon as possible.”

During recent UK educational sessions on identifying soybean rust, Hershman said there was keen interest in sentinel plots and how to access the information gleaned from them. Growers will be able to go to a Web site that will be updated daily with this sentinel plot information. This will allow them to know where the disease is being found and where it is not being found, Hershman said.

“Part of determining their risk, is for farmers to watch the movement of the disease,” he said. 

The USDA Web site also will have additional state-specific information provided by disease specialists such as Hershman within those states so growers will have access not only to the data, but to what experts believe the data means to their producers.

Within Kentucky the target is 20 plots and those locations, ranging from Fulton County to Shelby County, already have been set.

“The key is to have them strategically located,” Hershman said. “We will probably end up having more than 20, but the official sites are selected based on their strategic location. It is like a checkerboard across the state. With the idea that these spores will be falling randomly, you are increasing your odds of finding it.”

The plots will be scouted either by agricultural and natural resources agents with the UK Cooperative Extension Service, crop company representatives or crop consultants. Kentucky’s plots will be sown in two early maturing varieties with Pioneer donating the seed.

The plots will be planted in mid- to late April, which is two weeks to a month earlier than farmers generally plant beans in Kentucky.

In addition to the sentinel plot Web site, the North American Plant Disease Forecast Center will be issuing forecasts of spore development and where the conditions are favorable for disease development. Farmers in Kentucky will be familiar with this center as it is the same one that issues forecasts for blue mold in tobacco. The first forecast for south Florida was issued in early March.

Access to both Web sites can be found through the College of Agriculture Department of Plant Pathology’s soybean rust Web site. Once at the soybean rust Web site, click on Track Soybean Rust.


Writer: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278

Contacts: Don Hershman 270-365-7541, ext. 215