Rust Tales: Florida

Jim Marois, University of Florida plant pathologist working out of the North Florida Research & Education Center in Quincy, FL, chatted briefly about the hunt for soybean rust in his state during a discussion about a new rust host for an upcoming print issue of CropLife.

“I didn’t think I’d be looking at 10,000 kudzu leaves a year. I’ve gotten real close to kudzu, and I never thought I would. It’s all part of the deal here now.”

“The real challenge is that the rodents are attracted to the legumes — including kudzu — because they have high-protein plant parts. Legumes fix their own nitrogen, so they naturally attract rodents. So the mice come in to eat the seeds and the plants, and the mice naturally attract the snakes. So, it’s more exciting than it should be sometimes. We do wear snake boots when we’re going through the kudzu patches.
Snake boots are rubber boots. They would look like something you would see on Bourbon Street (in New Orleans, LA). They kind of go up past your knees, with the idea that the snake cannot strike any higher than the leather in the boot. They’re also called snake leggings.”

“We are very serious about safety in the field when our students and technicians go out there, because it’s a whole bunch of paperwork if someone gets bit.” (He’s joking on that last part, folks.)

By Amy L. Fahnestock

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