Brazil may sell rust resistent soybeans in 2004/05
May 14, 2003 (Reuters)
By Inae Riveras

SAO PAULO, Brazil, May 14 (Reuters) - Soybean varieties resistant to Asian rust fungus could be on sale in Brazil's main producer states in time for the 2004/05 harvest, researchers said on Wednesday.

The highly contagious, wind-spread disease was first recorded in Brazil in March 2001 on the border with Paraguay. This year it caused a production loss of 2.2 million tonnes, according to Embrapa, the government's crop research agency.

"Depending on weather we could have several varieties ready in two years time," said Geraldo Berger, researcher at Monsoy, seed unit of U.S. agrochemical producer Monsanto Co (NYSE:MON - News).

Asian rust causes soy plants to lose their leaves prematurely, harming pod formation and reducing yields. The disease can be controlled by costly spraying of fungicides.

"We started to research rust in 1974 but it was only in 2001 with the first proven case of Asian rust that we realised that we had been studying American rust," said Jose Tadashi Yorinori, plant pathologist at Embrapa, the government's crop research agency.

However, the early research provided material for the development of varieties resistant or tolerant to Asian rust.

"If we had to start from scratch, it would take 12 to 15 years to develop a resistant variety," said Luis Carlos Miranda from Embrapa's soy research unit in Londrina, Parana state.

In 2002 Embrapa began to sort its genetic material and discovered that two commercial varieties -- BRS 134 and BRS Bacuri -- had rust resistant genes, Tadashi said.

They also had longer growing cycles, which was a notable advantage for the winter crop.

These varieties are now being multiplied to meet increased demand for planting next year's crop.

But Tadashi said that the varieties were only suitable for specific parts of the country -- BRS 134 is adapted for southern states and BRS Bacuri in center-west cerrado, or savannah, areas.

Rust resistant genes are being transferred to other varieties suitable for additional regions of Brazil.

Field tests on the rust resistant varieties were carried out in 2002/03 and Embrapa plans to present the results at a seminar in Uberaba, Minas Gerais state, in August.

Brazil, the world's No.2 soybean producer after the United States, has almost finished harvesting a record crop of just over 50 million tonnes.