U.S. chemical giant DuPont on Wednesday announced a multi-year partnership with Israel-based biotechnology company Evogene Ltd. to develop a strain of soybeans that carry improved resistance to rust, a fungal disease devastating to the crop.

DuPont's Des Moines, Iowa-based hybrid seed business Pioneer Hi-Bred Ltd. will collaborate with Rehovot-based Evogene to identify genes with the potential to combat rust and improve the crop's productivity.

Soybean rust is a common -- but severe -- fungal disease that can cause significant yield losses and threaten up to 80 percent of an affected field, according to a statement from DuPont announcing the collaboration.

The damage from soybean rust costs the industry an estimated $1.5 billion a year in yield losses, added the company.