Soybean research at Iowa State University

Joe McClure and Daren Mueller frequently collaborate on projects that yield benefits to Iowa farmers. (Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / Joclyn Bushman)

Research collaboration benefits Iowa farmers

February 5, 2024 | Kriss Nelson

It’s not a competition but a collaboration between the Iowa Soybean Association’s (ISA) Research Center for Farming Innovation (RCFI) and the Iowa Soybean Research Center at Iowa State University. At the heart of the partnership: the focus on the challenges and opportunities that exist within Iowa’s farms and fields.

About the Iowa Soybean Research Center

The Iowa Soybean Research Center was founded by ISU and ISA to bring ISU researchers, industry and farmers together to guide soybean production and research priorities.

“Bringing the different perspectives to the same table allows researchers to hear directly from farmers and their priorities, and similarly with industry,” says Christie Wiebbecke, ISA chief officer of research and conservation.

These relationships also mean the ability to build collaborative teams focused on soybean-specific research projects.

“This gives Iowa soybean farmers a direct conduit to ISU researchers, and researchers are then encouraged to work together to develop projects that will answer the farmers’ questions that have been a direct result of those conversations,” says Wiebbecke.

Daren Mueller, ISU professor and Extension plant pathologist, considers this relationship a “luxury.”

“There are a lot of states that don’t get this type of support,” says Mueller. “Having this relationship with the Iowa Soybean Association gives us a clear snapshot of soybean farmers’ questions so we know where our focus should be for research projects.”

Research at Iowa State University

Collaborating through fungicide trials

ISA and ISU have worked together for more than a decade on researching fungicides in small plot and on-farm trials.

“Iowa State University’s small plot research trials are extremely valuable but may not translate into full-scale field results,” says ISA Director of Research Joe McClure. “We partner with them to take their small plot research to the next level and see if we can validate or invalidate findings.”

Working with RCFI, researchers at the Iowa Soybean Research Center and ISU ensure that the same fungicide products being evaluated in on-farm trials are used on small plot research.

“We have been doing this consistently for 12 years and it is a great resource that has continued,” says Mueller. “If we don’t do these trials, farmers must solely rely on the people selling the product. This gives farmers unbiased data to help make their decisions.”

Farmer walking in fieldISA farmer-member Keith Lovrien trusts the collaboration. Not only does he rely on the data compiled from these results, but oftentimes, the data prompts him to do research on his farm.

“I will look at trials, and it helps guide me for new trials to implement,” says Lovrien. “We need to try some things out of our comfort zone. It helps to have that trial data out there. You will get the same results if we keep doing the same things; we need to move forward.”

Concerns over soybean fungicides

There has been a growing concern of soybean disease resistance to fungicides developing over the past 10 years.

The pathogens that cause soybean foliar diseases such as brown spot, Cercospora leaf blight and frog eye leaf spot have all shown resistance to fungicides.

What can farmers do to help fight against soybean diseases?

“Farmers need to do their homework. This is more of a complicated decision than it was in the past,” says Mueller. “They need to push to ensure when they buy a premix that all active ingredients work at some level. They need to dive in deep and respect their fungicide decisions as much as they do their herbicide program.”

These diseases could have an impact on yield.

In Mueller’s trials, frogeye leaf spot can cause a three- to four-bushel drop in yield when just 3-5% of the leaf area in the upper canopy was covered.

“Keeping the focus on topics of resistance, effectiveness and tools, such as fungicides and continuing the partnerships with ISU and the Iowa Soybean Research Center will help us serve Iowa farmers better,” McClure says. “This is why collaboration between ISA and ISU is important to support Iowa farmers.”

The Farmer Connection

The relationship between ISA RCFI and Iowa Soybean Research Center at ISU is valuable to researchers and farmers.Soybean researchers

“There is a lot of value there, and I see that relationship growing,” says ISA Director of Research Joe McClure. “We will continue to combine our access to farmers and our ability to partner on full-scale research and help manage those field trials and utilize the skill sets at ISU. We both bring something different to the table, and that will continue to grow in the future.”

Daren Mueller, ISU professor and Extension plant pathologist, says it’s a natural relationship.

“At ISU and the Iowa Soybean Research Center we know it is important to maintain the relationship with Iowa Soybean Association’s Research Center for Farming Innovation — but it is also easy to maintain,” says Mueller. “Not a lot of commodity associations have a full-fledged research network. Some may see that as competition, but it’s actually a complementation. We complement each other.”

ISA farmer-member Keith Lovrien says it’s a collaboration he is thankful for.

“These are two resources I trust,” says Lovrien, a Butler County farmer. “I am always willing to work with them to provide a space for on-farm research trials.”