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Iowa State Grant Gives Asian Soybean Rust Detection a Boost
January 27th, 2005
Tracking the spread of Asian soybean rust and other plant diseases that may threaten U.S. agriculture has gotten a boost in the form of a $900,000 grant to Iowa State University.
A team of researchers led by plant epidemiologist Forrest Nutter plan to develop a web-based system by May that will detect, identify, map and predict the spread of plant pathogens and pests. They will first focus on Asian soybean rust, which was discovered in the United State in November. The goal is to develop a system that will detect any disease or pest that threatens American agriculture.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing the three-year grant for the work. Nutter is joined by Mark Gleason, plant pathology; Elwynn Taylor, agronomy; John Basart, electrical and computer engineering and the Iowa Space Grant Consortium; Kevin Kane, academic information technologies; and Will Baldwin, Great Plains Plant Disease Diagnostic Network at Kansas State University.
Nutter said the team will develop real-time disease/pest risk maps using the National Plant Diagnostic Network’s database of nationwide plant disease clinic samples to track diseases and pests. Predictions of where they could spread will be accomplished using atmospheric transport models, that predict the time and distance pathogen spores are disseminated beyond the point where the disease was initially found.
"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 said.
Satellite imaging and geographical information systems will allow the system to look outside the United States to find and monitor pathogens approaching the country. Nutter said light reflecting off plants can be used to detect diseases based on the different "reflective signatures," as well as the unique "temporal and spatial injury patterns" the diseases and pests cause.
Nutter has used the technology in working with soybean rust in Brazil the past two growing seasons. He has served on committees convened by the Department of Defense, U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Homeland Security and USDA on issues related to plant diseases that may be deliberately or accidentally introduced as threats to the U.S. agricultural economy.