Brazil’s Ministry of Agriculture reports that it will spend US$ 565,000 (1.5 million reais) on an educational campaign to make people aware of the problem of soybean rust and train farmers and researchers to deal with it correctly.
“Our main objective is to educate farmers,” says the coordinator of Plant Protection at the ministry, José Geraldo Baldini, adding that in regions where the campaign (Campanha Nacional de Conscientização contra a Ferrugem da Soja) has been tried out there was a sharp reduction in the problem.
“For example, in Barreiras, Bahia, we eliminated soybean rust in 2004 after farmers followed our instructions regarding how to deal with the foliar lesions that appeared in 2003,” says Baldini.
Last year Brazil set up a clearinghouse on soybean rust (Phakopsora pachyrhizi), known as the Anti-Rust Consortium, which had a US$ 7 million budget provided by the government and the private sector.
Baldini says that Brazil had no experience with the disease and faced soybean rust empty-handed when it arrived.
But now the country has 19 anti-rust products and has been visited by US experts who were interested in what Brazil was doing. Brazil also shares its anti-rust technology with Mercosur partner countries.
It is estimated that soybean rust caused losses of over US$ 1 billion to the 2002/2003 harvest. In the 2003/2004 harvest, losses doubled.
For this harvest (2004/2005) the outlook is for lower profits due to the cost of fighting the disease, which causes premature defoliation, which results in fewer pods with fewer seeds; all adding up to yield losses.
And that is why the government is spending more on educational and elimination campaigns.