Billy Moore, plant pathologist emeritus from the Mississippi State University (MSU), was one of the first leaders of the state’s soybean rust program. Tom Allen, MSU plant pathologist and current head of the program, mentioned Moore’s soybean rust scouting escapades so often, CropLife decided to get the stories straight from the source. Moore took time to reminisce with us from his home.
• “I was in northern Mississippi and walking across a pile of kudzu. It felt odd, and when I asked about it, turns out I was standing on some old cars. I was just thankful that I didn’t fall between the cars. Kudzu is an extensive vine that’s extremely fast-growing and can cover an area — even an old junk yard — in short time.”
• “Kudzu protects the soil from splash erosion. Just a few plants will have a lot of foliage. In a big rain, the water flows freely and causes gullies, and the kudzu can hide the gullies underneath its foliage.
You also always have to keep in mind that there might be snakes. The kudzu provides a perfect shady location, and the snakes snuggle under the kudzu leaves to keep warm. You should wear boots for safety. There can be rats and rabbits in the kudzu too that you don’t see because the canopy is rather open underneath.”
• “One time I was in Ft. Adams, which is in the extreme southwest corner of the state at a relatively high elevation. I was scouting for rust with Jack from Jimmy Sanders, who can also ID rust. There were gullies that were 30 to 40 feet deep. We were determined to get in this section to see if the rust had survived the winter — we’d had tremendous rust there that year. There was a good 50 acres of kudzu at the bottom of the gully and steep hills on both sides. It was like being in an envelope. We took a good look and found sofas, washing machines, and more.
Jack suggested we go up the side of a hill instead of the way we went in. I didn’t think we should because of snakes. Jack helped me up that hillside, but I’ll never do that again. All that, and there was no rust.”
• “One time in the southern part of the state, we were training a new county Extension agent. He visited a nearby patch, that was isolated from other kudzu and soybeans. Beyond the sheds and an old house, he found something unusual — a recently dug area about 3 feet by 6 feet, so he called the sheriff’s department. Pretty soon there were a whole bunch of cars with all their lights going, but we never did find out what was going on in that patch."
By Amy L. Fahnestock