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Crop Protection Network: Bridging the gap between research and farmers

Article cover photo
Researchers with the Crop Protection Network project created a website that houses many resources for soybean diseases across the Midwest. Crop advisers can earn continuing education credit through the CPN now as well. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Carol Brown, ISA environmental communications specialist

Researchers and extension specialists across the Midwest are working together to improve access for farmers to find and use the latest results from agricultural studies. In its third year, the Crop Protection Network is creating and compiling publications and other resources to help farmers manage disease pressure and improve yields, primarily for soybeans, corn and wheat.

“In a meeting a few years ago, we realized that several states were producing similar extension materials about common issues such as soybean rust and frog eye leaf spot,” says Daren Mueller, a plant pathologist at Iowa State University and the project’s principle investigator. “We took a hard look at the way we did things and decided we wanted to be more efficient.”

This team of extension professionals, formerly called the North Central Disease Study Group, established the Crop Protection Network. They expanded the group to include soybean agronomists and entomologists to increase the resources on agronomic and pest issues for farmers.

Martin Chilvers, plant pathologist and associate professor in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences at Michigan State University, is one of the founding members of the study group. He agrees with Mueller about increasing efficiency.

“Everyone’s got reduced resources nowadays. So, it really allowed us to extend those grant dollars much further,” Chilvers says. “One of the exciting things is the collaborative nature of the Crop Protection Network and the high-quality extension publications that are being produced.”

Working with scientists from other land grant universities, the group has written and amassed articles and publications with the latest information on soybean and corn diseases. The publications are mainly focused on the soybean concerns in the north central region of the United States.

“It would be very hard to do on our own and we’d be reinventing the wheel, but by working together like this, we’ve done a really good job at creating useful guides,” Chilvers says.

The North Central Soybean Research Program (NCSRP) and other organizations have supported this work by awarding research contract funding to accomplish the Crop Protection Network’s goal of getting these resources into the hands of farmers.

“As we developed the publications, we noticed that most of the work we do is not specific to a problem in one state. Most of our issues are crossing state lines,” continues Mueller. “We approached NCSRP after we developed the idea. They were the first group that invested in this.”

The group launched its website,, in early 2018 as a central location for these resources from 29 extension offices across the United States. The website includes publications available for downloading, social media highlights, links to partner videos, and a library of articles on numerous diseases sortable by crop, season, or category such as foliar; root; ear, head or seed; and stem or stalk.

In just a few months, the group recorded more than 10,300 publication downloads, according to the Crop Protection Network’s year-end report to NCSRP. Sections devoted to insects and weeds will be added soon.

Getting credit for reading

The newest section on the Crop Protection Network website is the availability for certified crop advisers (CCA) to earn continuing education credits. Crop advisers can visit the website, read certain publications and take a quiz afterward to earn a 0.5 credit for each passing score.

A total of 19 quizzes are currently available through the website. Each quiz is based on publications that cover areas including diseases and their management, pest resistance and mycotoxins.

Participants must earn a passing score of 70 percent or more on a quiz to qualify for credit. Results are sent monthly to the American Society for Agronomy for processing, and participants will be presented with a certificate for their records. Participants can take these quizzes at no cost, either through a dedicated web page, or through a link with corresponding publications. Each quiz was written and reviewed by CCAs and extension specialists for difficulty and accuracy.

The scientists heading up the Crop Protection Network project are adding to the website monthly.

“It’s a constant effort to update the different articles we have and to write new articles,” Chilvers says. “We’re responding to the conditions we’ve got now such as prevented planting, and always, the economics of soybean production. We try to be responsive to needs and write specific pieces for them. That is important to us.”

Sponsors of the Crop Protection Network project include: North Central Soybean Research Program (NCSRP), United Soybean Board (USB) , Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO), North Central Integrated Pest Management (NC-IPM) Center, National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA) and the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative. 

Contact Carol Brown at

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