The first U.S. cases of the fungus soybean rust, which hinders plant growth and drastically cuts crop production, were found at two research sites in Louisiana, officials said Wednesday.
The wind-borne spores are suspected to have blown in from South America during the hurricane season and were found after the bulk of the state’s soybeans had been harvested, state Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom said.
Though agriculture officials said the effect of the fungus should be minimal this year because it appeared after much of the harvest, Odom said he was worried that Louisiana’s soybeans wouldn’t sell as well.
“What we’re scared of is that the market may drop in Louisiana because of the rust aspect of it, and I don’t see any reason for it because most of the beans have already been harvested,” he said.
“The market may say, ‘We don’t want your soybeans,’ ” Odom said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture was sending a team to Louisiana to help identify the fungus and determine if it had spread beyond the Louisiana State University research sites in St. Gabriel and Baton Rouge.
Soybean rust can be treated with fungicides, but that increases costs to the production of soybeans.