Growing North with Soybeans

Checkoff expands opportunities for farmers

When farmers in the northern region began looking for different crops to plant, the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) began investing in research to improve profitability in growing soybeans.

“Until 20 years ago, there was little soybean production in the North,” says Polk County farmer Mike Skaug. “But we had trouble with wheat seed and disease. Sunflowers were one rotation crop we were able to use, but disease was worse and the market was poor. For disease control, we needed to add a different crop to our rotation.”

The soybean checkoff provided funding for soybean breeding and genetics research, development of new varieties, and solutions to disease or pests.

According to Dr. Jim Orf, past director of soybean breeding and genetics for the University of Minnesota, developing varieties that could thrive in the northern climates and shorter growing seasons began with public research. From there, companies bought the technologies and created their own varieties.

“The development of northern soybean varieties has provided northern farmers with a greater financial opportunity,” says Skaug, who is treasurer for the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association. “With soybeans increasing in yield, farmers receive a greater return. Varieties adapted to a wide range of soil types give farmers more options to add to their crop rotation.”

Changing the landscape

The 10.6 million bushels produced in northwest Minnesota’s Polk County in 2014 would have been unimaginable years ago. Due to advancements made in research and development, it is now a reality to productively grow soybeans in northern climates.

Skaug says he thinks the checkoff investment was well worth it. “The Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council has done a great job of working hard with farmers and researchers to help growers in the northern region realize that it benefits soil quality and enhances weed control,” he adds.

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