(Photo: Joclyn Bushman/Iowa Soybean Association)
ISA research delivers knowledge and opportunities for farmers
February 7, 2022 | Brock Johnston
The Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) has focused on the needs of soybean farmers since it started more than 55 years ago.
As farmer needs changed, so did the size of commitment required to provide innovative research, tools and technical support across the state.
What began in December 2000 as the first Global Positioning System Research Group with $50,000 from the Iowa Soybean Promotion board has now transformed into millions of dollars in checkoff funds to help farmers be more productive and profitable.
The ISA Research Center for Farming Innovation (RCFI) was established in 2020. It combines agronomics, conservation and analytics to better serve Iowa’s 40,000 soybean growers.
“The Center was a logical evolution for our internal programs,” says Ed Anderson, RCFI senior director of research. “For over 20 years, ISA has been the national leader in not-for-profit agronomic and conservation research conducted for and with farmers.”
ISA has allocated more than $91 million in checkoff investments for internal and external research.
These dollars highlight the critical role research plays in addressing farmer priorities and how these needs continue to shape ISA’s approach.
“Whether it’s production, new uses or environmental research, ISA prioritizes research because farmers recognize the importance of investing in our own business,” says ISA President Robb Ewoldt of Davenport.
Anderson recognizes that farmers have options when considering partners to improve the agronomic or conservation aspects of their farms.
But ISA is unique in providing farmers opportunities to conduct on-farm research and sift through scientific data. This information helps them better evaluate products or practices to help meet operational goals spanning agronomics and conservation in their total cropping systems.
“The testimonials of farmers throughout Iowa further demonstrate ISA’s commitment to trustworthy, nonbiased research,” says Ewoldt.
This is where ISA’s research efforts, powered through the soybean checkoff, present the vision and willingness to take risks and show true leadership to benefit Iowa soybean growers.
“Who will invest in improving the profitability and stewardship of soybean growers if we’re not doing this ourselves?” Ewoldt asks.
Advancements in tillage, cover crops, prescriptive planting and optimized inputs like fertilizers, seed and pesticides, are a few products of ISA’s research success.
By combining on-farm opportunities and technical assistance, RCFI provides a systems approach for producers considering big picture operations for the greatest productivity, profitability and environmental sustainability.
Continuing this commitment, RCFI seeks to complement and extend previous work, data and expertise with other public and private providers to bring genuine value to producers.
Funding yields results
Ensuring the long-term competitiveness of homegrown soy through research will continue to warrant additional funding. That’s why ISA RCFI continues to broaden funding resources through partnerships and external funding opportunities from public and private entities.
While each farm has unique circumstances that affect success, ISA remains positioned to deliver the insights and recommendations required to meet the growing needs of farmers.
“There’s never a one-size-fits-all approach,” says Anderson.
Positioned for growth
Seeing the range of innovative products hitting the marketplace is a welcomed sign for producers.
“Any time we can play a part in funding the research of new products, it ultimately benefits our bottom line,” says Ewoldt.
Lee Brooke, an ISA board member near Clarinda, agrees that soybean research and supply go hand-in-hand.
“Not only does research impact yields, but it also helps find new uses for our growing supply,” adds Brooke.
Checkoff investment in research reflects a broader consensus among growers that supporting soy production, new uses and natural resources present a sound return-on-investment for the future, Ewoldt says. “A rising tide lifts all boats.”