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Iowa Soybean Research Center: Strengthening Iowa connections

Article cover photo
Iowa State University researchers visit ISA board member Robb Ewoldt's farm on a tour hosted by the Iowa Soybean Research Center. The three-yearly tours are just one way the Center connects researchers with farmers. (Photo courtesy Iowa Soybean Research Center)

By Carol Brown, ISA communications specialist

The Iowa Soybean Research Center (ISRC) is a great example of the proverb “grow where you are planted.”

Established in 2014, the ISRC at Iowa State University (ISU) has expanded its presence with the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA), Iowa farmers and researchers across the Midwest.

“The Center has made funding commitments of $750,000 since 2015,” said Greg Tylka, ISRC director. “We have supported several unique and successful research projects with ISU agronomists, plant breeders and pathologists, microbiologists and other scientists to advance soybean productivity as well as farmer profitability.”

The ISRC was established to build public–private partnerships on coordinated research, teaching, and extension activities of faculty and staff who work in the areas of soybean biology, breeding, economics, precision agriculture, production, and pest management. Funding for the center comes from ISU, ISA, industry partners and donations to support its unique focus on public and private prioritized academic research.

Tylka presented an update of Center activities at a recent ISA board of directors meeting, which included the announcement of new staff and industry partners as well as research project news.

 “We just wrapped up our third year supporting a rhizosphere microbiome and root phenotyping research project with professors Gwyn Beattie and Danny Singh,” Tylka said. “Their project started with our support and will be expanding over the next three years through other competitive federal funding. This example illustrates that the Center is becoming an incubator of sorts for soybean research in Iowa and beyond.”

Through a private gift from Keith and Ginny Smith, the Center was able to add a communications coordinator this spring. Kara Berg is on-board to share ISRC activities with farmers, other researchers and the ag community. Berg initiated the Center’s first e-newsletter in April, which can be accessed on the Center’s website. To subscribe to the newsletter, email:

Tylka said the Center also is working closely with Prashant Jha, who recently joined the faculty as an associate professor in the ISU Agronomy Department working in weed management to develop projects that industry will be excited to support.

A highlight of the ISRC’s activities includes two to three field trips each year, established especially for researchers at ISU who spend the bulk of their time in a laboratory setting. The ISRC staff varies the destinations each time, but they have the same goal of allowing lab staff, students and on-campus faculty to see how their laboratory research has real-world implications.

“Often, some of ISU’s researchers and graduate students are from other states or countries and haven’t had the opportunity to explore Iowa farms and the businesses that support farming,” Tylka said. “We want to ensure the laboratory-to-farm connection is acknowledged.”

The field trips are highly successful for the scientists, the farmers and the agribusinesses whom they visit; everyone learns something, he said.

The ISA connection

The Iowa Soybean Association supports the Center in several ways. Ed Anderson, ISA senior director of research, serves on the Center’s management team. Additionally, Steve May works for both ISA and the ISRC to expand and build relationships between ag industry and the two organizations, creating another dimension of financial support and an avenue to generate new research topics.

The ISRC is a liaison between ISA researchers and ISU Extension ag researchers as well. Tylka and Anderson ensure the scientists are aware of projects being conducted in each organization and seek ways to collaborate on shared topics. 

“A prime example of this is the emergence of the soybean gall midge, a newly found fly whose larvae are destroying soybeans in parts of Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota,” said Anderson. “The ISA On-Farm Network® agronomists are conducting field trials on insecticide timing and frequency, while ISU entomologists are studying the behaviors and lifecycle of the midge. The ISRC can share Information across the two organizations to help farmers understand and manage this destructive pest.”

The ISRC also supported a joint project led by Peter Kyveryga, ISA Analytics director, and ISU associate professor of agronomy Fernando Miguez, to further develop the online decision-making tool Interactive Summaries of On-Farm Strip Trials or ISOFAST.

The research conducted through the ISRC will impact farmers as discoveries are unearthed. Tylka provided an example of ISU adjunct assistant professor Arti Singh’s development of a smart phone app to help farmers identify diseases. This project also will be expanded by a larger, nationally competitive grant over the next three years.

Through research and outreach, the Iowa Soybean Research Center is indeed growing its presence in the research community, with the ag industry, ISA and farmers across the state. Visit the ISRC website for more information.

Contact Carol Brown at

For media inquiries, permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos, please contact Katie James, ISA Public Relations Manager at © 2020 Iowa Soybean Association. All rights reserved.

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