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Center stays centered on soybean profitability

Article cover photo
ISA works to improve farmer profitability through partnerships like the one with the Iowa Soybean Research Center at ISU. Photo: Joseph Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association

By Allie Arp, ISA research communications specialist

Entering its fourth year, the Iowa Soybean Research Center at Iowa State University (ISU) continues its work to bring farmers, industry representatives and university researchers together to improve the Iowa soybean industry.

“The Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) views the work of the center and our partnership with the center as essential components of a holistic approach to identifying and accomplishing short- and long-term soybean research and communication needs,” said Ed Anderson, ISA senior director of research. “The ISA Board remains committed to providing funding support that can be leveraged with funds from the private sector. Enhancing public/private partnerships in this manner ensures joint commitment to accomplishing meaningful work.”

Progress the center has made over the last year was recently reviewed at a meeting of the center’s advisory council. In addition to updates on advisory council membership, farmer-centric think tank ideas, and the management team’s next steps, there were several research project updates shared. Below are the highlights.

Funded project updates

The Iowa Soybean Research Center’s primary purpose is coordinating and funding important soybean research that otherwise might not receive support.

  • Cropping systems modeling tool for soybeans – led by Sotirios Archontoulis
  • RNA-based approaches to SCN resistance – led by Thomas Baum
  • Integrated pest resistance management plan (IPRMP) program coordinator support – led by Steve Bradbury
  • Use of UAVs to improve soybean production – led by Matt Darr
  • Root and microbiome traits to tailor next-generation soybean cultivars – led by Gwyn Beattie and Danny Singh

Among the original projects funding through the center, “Cropping systems modeling tools for soybeans” and “RNA-based approaches to SCN resistance” specifically complemented and extended other digital agriculture and pest management projects supported by ISA, other state and regional soybean organizations and the United Soybean Board. These projects provided discovery and development results that will be leveraged in the near future to provide better crop management software tools and innovative ways to control the soybean cyst nematode through biotechnology.

The IPRMP program coordinator support was pivotal in allowing ISU to hire a staff member to lead this statewide effort to develop and drive community-based approaches for extending the life cycles of integrated weed, insect and disease pathogen control strategies.

Finally, the most recently funded center project, “Root and microbiome traits to tailor next-generation soybean cultivars,” is a truly novel and exciting approach in bringing together soybean breeding and soybean rhizosphere expertise, technologies and tools for novel studies of what can be done below the soil surface to improve soybean growth, development and yield.  Farmers, companies and universities see the value in this work, but funding for collaborative discovery work and pilot studies like this is often difficult to obtain. The Center can support this early work with confidence that success will lead to subsequent investment by agencies and companies.

“It has been exciting to see the center develop in just a few short years to the point of effectively obtaining input into the research needs of Iowa soybean farmers and then identifying ISU researchers and providing funding to address those needs,” said Greg Tylka, Iowa Soybean Research Center director.

Iowa Soybean Research Center Director Greg Tylka is excited to see the center develop to the point is has. Photo: Joseph Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association

McGrath awarded for efforts

The Iowa Soybean Research Center’s Clarke McGrath, on-farm research and extension coordinator, received the Iowa Master Farmer’s “Exceptional Service to Iowa Agriculture Award” at the 2017 Iowa Master Farmer Awards Day. The award is presented to individuals who aren’t farmers but have dedicated their life to serving farmers and the agriculture industry. Congratulations, Clarke!

Researcher tour

As discussed in a previous Advance: The Center spearheaded efforts during the summer to get nearly two dozen faculty and staff members out to two farms - some for the first time! The event was considered a success by all accounts and planning is underway for future tours for both farmers and researchers. To read the full story about the event, click here.

Meetings with other Soybean Centers

The Iowa Soybean Research Center leaders envision future collaborations and joint programs with sister soybean centers at Purdue University, The Ohio State University, Southern Illinois University and the University of Missouri. Each center shares the mission to bring value to soybean farmers and to the broader soybean industry. However, each organization has a slightly different set of strategies and goals. The Iowa Soybean Research Center’s focus on production research and industry partnerships uniquely positions it as a leader in this area. The first multi-state center meeting was held in Columbia, Missouri in the spring of 2017. After a robust discussion of center missions, visions, goals and accomplishments, the center leaders and supporting state soybean staff agreed to convene two meetings per year at different locations in order to consider possible collaborative efforts. The center meeting planned for Savannah, Georgia, in conjunction with the World Soybean Research Conference 10, was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma. Plans are underway to schedule an additional meeting.

With limited time and financial resources, the Iowa Soybean Research Center has established itself as a credible and productive entity for the conception and execution of sound basic and applied soybean research. In the coming months, the center plans to involve more companies and researchers on additional novel research. Stay tuned for future Iowa Soybean Research Center updates.

“The success achieved in the Center’s first three years is a tribute to the visionary support provided by ISA, ISU and our charter industry partners and it validates this novel approach to addressing Iowa soybean farmers’ research needs,” said Tylka. “All involved in the Center recognize its potential and are dedicated to making even greater contributions to improving the production of soybeans in Iowa.”

For permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos contact Aaron Putze at aputze@iasoybeans.com.

©2017 Iowa Soybean Association On-Farm Network®. All rights reserved. On-Farm Network® is a registered trademark of the Iowa Soybean Association, Ankeny, IA.Portions of some On-Farm Network trials are paid for in total or in part by the soybean checkoff.

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August 2017 Contact Ann Clinton for past publications.