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The SCN Coalition wins national award for public relations campaign

Article cover photo
The SCN Coalition is working hard to inform farmers of the latest ways to combat this disease. The Coalition was recently recognized nationally for their outreach efforts. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

The SCN Coalition – a public/checkoff/private partnership formed in 2018 to increase the number of growers who are actively managing soybean cyst nematode (SCN) – was recently recognized for their public relations campaign. The National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) is the largest U.S. association for marketing and agribusiness, and the Best of NAMA Awards honor the nation’s best work in agricultural communications. Since its launch, the SCN Coalition’s public relations efforts have made 12.1 million impressions among North America’s soybean growers.

“The SCN Coalition is a large team effort, and there are dozens of people responsible for our successful campaign launch,” said Samuel Markell, plant pathologist at North Dakota State University and leader of the SCN Coalition. “We built the SCN Coalition as a public-private partnership. This includes university scientists in 28 states and Ontario.”

Other partners include grower checkoff organizations such as the North Central Soybean Research Program (NCSRP), United Soybean Board (USB) and state soybean promotion boards, and partners in the private sector, including BASF, Bayer, Corteva Agriscience, Growmark, Syngenta and Winfield United. 

Results from more than 25,000 experimental research plots conducted by Iowa State University professor and nematologist Greg Tylka and staff in Iowa over 15 years serve as a basis for the SCN Coalition program information and messages. The field research continues and is funded by the soybean checkoff through support from the Iowa Soybean Association.

Markell says the goal of the SCN Coalition’s campaign is to have the entire industry speak with one voice to reduce the economic loss that soybean growers are facing from SCN. It starts with “Take the test. Beat the pest.” Growers need to know their SCN numbers, and that starts by testing their fields so they know what their nematode populations are doing.

“SCN is North America’s top yield-limiting pest in soybeans. Unfortunately, research shows SCN populations are adapting and reproducing on PI 88788, the source of resistance used in 95 percent of all SCN-resistant varieties and yields are decreasing,” he added. “Most soybean growers are not aware that their yield loss is increasing. That’s why we formed the Coalition.”

Markell credits a small, diverse group of scientists who helped build the SCN Coalition and continue to lead it: Greg Tylka, Iowa State University nematologist; Ed Anderson, Iowa Soybean Association senior director of research and NCSRP executive director; George Bird, Michigan State University nematologist; Albert Tenuta, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs plant pathologist; Kaitlyn Bissonnette, University of Missouri plant pathologist; and Palle Pedersen, global head product management at Syngenta Seedcare. He also cites MorganMyers, the strategic communications firm that helped Markell’s team of scientists develop The SCN Coalition.

“Early success of the Coalition is the result of two main things,” Markell said. “A great group of people who shared the same vision of success and have worked tirelessly to get there, and the support of the soybean growers and private corporate partners who believed we could make a national impact.”

Before the Coalition launched, Markell’s team visited potential public and private partners to understand the positions that the industry and academia had on key SCN management recommendations. According to Markell, “Alignment was right there, and it was extremely encouraging.” Soon after, the Coalition equipped partners with messages, training and tools to raise grower awareness, and built, a one-stop shop for state-specific SCN resistance management recommendations.

The SCN Coalition was officially launched at Commodity Classic in 2018, with a panel of growers discussing how they actively manage SCN; a press conference announcing the Coalition and the research that led to its formation; and a booth staffed with nematologists and plant pathologists ready to “Talk Todes.”

“I’m proud of the approach we took to develop the Coalition, grounding it in science, recruiting partners and working together toward unified messages. I’m very excited that our approach was recognized with a national Best of NAMA award,” Markell said. “But we’ve still got a lot of work to do.” 

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