Since its discovery in the southeastern United States in 2004, soybean rust (SBR) has been variable from year to year. Caused by Phakopsora pachyrhizi, SBR epidemics in Florida are important to understand, as they may serve as an inoculum source for other areas of the country. This study examined the first disease detection date, incidence, and severity of SBR in relation to environmental data, growth stage, and maturity group (MG3, MG5, MG7) in soybean sentinel plots (225 m2) across north Florida from 2005 through 2008. The majority (91%) of the initial infections were observed in MG5 and MG7 soybeans, with plots not becoming infected until growth stage R4 or later. Precipitation was the principle factor affecting disease progress, where disease increased rapidly after rain events and was suppressed during dry periods. On average, plots became infected 30 days earlier in 2008 than 2005. In 2008, there was a significant increase in disease incidence and severity associated with the occurrence of Tropical Storm Fay, which deposited up to 380 mm of rainfall in north Florida. The results of this study indicate that climatic and environmental factors are important in determining the development of SBR in north Florida.
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