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Dead Or Alive? New Tests Can Tell The Difference Between Harmless Rust Spores And Dangerous Ones

Asian soybean rust spores can hitch rides on gusts of wind and wreak havoc on soybean fields.

For many years, U.S. soybean farmers didn’t have a way to determine if rust spores on their field posed a threat to their crops. So farmers had to guess whether to apply a fungicide that might or might not be necessary.

Thankfully, University of Illinois researchers have developed a way to tell dead rust spores from ones that could kill crops.

“Finding spores is different from finding spores that are living and able to infect plants,” says Glen Hartman, Ph.D., United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) scientist and professor of crop sciences at the University of Illinois.

Hartman collaborated with Ramya Vittal, a postdoctoral researcher in the Laboratory for Soybean Disease Research, and James Haudenshield, a USDA-ARS research plant pathologist, to develop a test that uses two different staining techniques to determine rust spore viability.

The first technique utilizes two dyes that turn harmful spores green or red.

The second test uses a two-color fluorescent light that causes threatening spores to give off a red glow.

Hartman said these quick and effective tests can help farmers with early soybean rust detection. Reliable detection enables farmers to apply fungicides and protect yields.

The researchers hope to use the tests to monitor the movement of soybean rust during the growing season.


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