Iowa Soybean board and staff touring ISU Boone facility

(Photo: Joseph Hopper/Iowa Soybean Association)

ISA directors, staff tour ISU Enviratron

September 22, 2022 | Joseph Hopper

Iowa Soybean Association directors and staff recently toured Iowa State University research facilities near Boone and got an up-close look at ISU’s Enviratron, a state-of-the-art automated facility meant to study plants under different environmental variables.

Dr. Lie Tang showed off the enviratron’s autonomous robotic rover, which monitors the plants within the Enviratron’s eight growth chambers. Dr. Steve Whitham explained to the group how the Enviratron is helping us to learn about growing soybeans in the not-so-distant future.

“We’re comparing 2050 conditions for carbon dioxide to what current carbon dioxide conditions are,” Whitham says. “Very preliminary results so far, but so far elevated carbon dioxide seems to cause some of the viruses we work with to do better, so that’s not in favor of soybeans. But there’ve been quite a few experiments with bacteria, and the soybean growing in higher carbon dioxide are more resistant to the bacteria. I think there’s going to be tradeoffs, it’s pretty interesting.”

After witnessing the ins and outs of the 52-feet-by-19-feet space holding the growth chambers, both ISA directors and staff had the same reaction: “It’s cool.”

“I can see why the possibilities are kind of endless on how to utilize that technology,” ISA At-Large Director Brent Renner says.

“I’m an engineer, so seeing some of those engineering solutions like that was amazing,” ISA Senior Research Scientist Dr. Chris Hay says. “Being able to have a controlled environment and having the robotics to make those precise measurements. It’s kind of cool to think about the potential to do a lot of really cool things in there.”

More information about ISU’s Enviratron can be found at