Existing crop monitoring programs determine the incidence and distribution of
plant diseases and pathogens and assess the damage caused within a crop
production region. These programs have traditionally used observed or predicted
disease and pathogen data and environmental information to prescribe management
practices that minimize crop loss. Monitoring programs are especially important
for crops with broad geographic distribution or for diseases that can cause
rapid and great economic losses. Successful monitoring programs have been
developed for several plant diseases, including downy mildew of cucurbits,
Fusarium head blight of wheat, potato late blight, and rusts of cereal crops. A
recent example of a successful disease-monitoring program for an economically
important crop is the soybean rust (SBR) monitoring effort within North America.
SBR, caused by the fungus Phakopsora pachyrhizi, was first identified in
the continental United States in November 2004. SBR causes moderate to severe
yield losses globally. The fungus produces foliar lesions on soybean (Glycine
max) and other legume hosts. P. pachyrhizi diverts nutrients from the
host to its own growth and reproduction. The lesions also reduce photosynthetic
area. Uredinia rupture the host epidermis and diminish stomatal regulation of
transpiration to cause tissue desiccation and premature defoliation. Severe
soybean yield losses can occur if plants defoliate during the mid-reproductive
growth stages. The rapid response to the threat of SBR in North America resulted
in an unprecedented amount of information dissemination and the development of a
real-time, publicly available monitoring and prediction system known as the
Soybean Rust-Pest Information Platform for Extension and Education (SBR-PIPE).
The objectives of this article are (i) to highlight the successful response
effort to SBR in North America, and (ii) to introduce researchers to the
quantity and type of data generated by SBR-PIPE. Data from this system may now
be used to answer questions about the biology, ecology, and epidemiology of an
important pathogen and disease of soybean.
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