Tales From The South: Rust Gone Wild

I don’t know if I’ve laughed as much doing a story in my nearly 30 years of editing and writing as I did when interviewing some of the Southern soybean rust experts recently.

In the March issue of CropLife® magazine, we take you behind the scenes of USDA’s soybean rust website, Integrated Pest Management Pest Information Platform for Extension and Education (aka IPM PIPE), and learn the origins of the soybean rust alerts, scoutings, and confirmations (“Where The Wild Things Are,” p. 68). Those little red and green dots on the U.S. map make tracking rust’s progress easy, but as I learned from these interviews, they don’t reveal the hard work of Extension specialists and volunteers every day.

The tales these eight plant pathologists shared with me about their soybean rust adventures were amazing, hair-raising, and at times like something out of the movies. And to a person, situations that may not have been quite so much fun at the time have become fodder for great humor in retrospect.

Each researcher that I called was more than willing to tell me about their field experiences. Once they got started, the stories just rolled out, each new one topping the last, and all laced with laughter. Their stories have become legend within the ranks of plant pathologists.

And if they were enthusiastic about their own tales, they were even more eager and excited to ensure that I asked the next person on my list about specific situations THAT person was involved in. When they learned that I’d lost contact with Ed Sikora of Auburn as he was driving down an Alabama highway, everyone was very quick to fill in some gaps, because as I heard more than once, “Ed has the best stories of all.”

However, there just wasn’t enough room to fit all these soybean rust exploits and the photographs they sent to me on a single page in CropLife magazine, so we’ve added them to CropLife.com. Once you’re on the home page, click on Rust Report at left.

Not just Ed’s extra stories, but also exploits from Tom Allen and Billy Moore of Mississippi, Clayton Hollier of Louisiana, Bob Kemerait of Georgia, Tom Isakeit of Texas, Scott Monfort of Arkansas, and Jim Marois of Florida. I think you’ll be entertained as well as educated.

In all seriousness, to be at the forefront of finding soybean rust takes a genuine sense of service to the ag community because it requires a strong stomach, nerves of steel, and the ability to walk into the unknown at any time. Yet despite that, I came away from the interviews understanding that these people are fascinated by soybean rust.

Because of their dedication, you as retailers and your soybean grower-customers across the U.S. and Canada are able to keep track soybean rust and determine if and when action is needed. What an invaluable service.

We invite retailers — and not just those in the South — to click on my e-mail address below with your own soybean rust stories.

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