Research deliberation: Dialogue shapes what’s next for soy checkoff projects

Directors from the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) and Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) assembled in Mankato on Feb. 13 to hear and discuss research proposals for fiscal year 2024.

After reviewing the research proposals in January, the time arrived to deliberate and decide which projects to fund with soy checkoff resources.

“I feel really good about how the farmers came prepared to talk about the projects,” said MSR&PC director Gene Stoel, who chairs the Council’s internal research committee. “They did their job excellently, in their comments and they all seemed to know what we were talking about when we wanted to run projects forward. They did their homework, which is very good in my opinion.”

The meeting was held both in person and over Zoom for the researchers to give their presentations, which turned to more of a conversational style of presentation in the end.

MSR&PC Director of Research David Kee deemed the meeting a success. Farmer leaders had a keen eye for what was being presented, Kee said.

“We want to do what’s best for the farmers in Minnesota,” Kee said. “We need to have projects that are very relevant to the people that pay for them. It’s important for us to interact with the researchers also, so that they know what we’re thinking and so we can express to them what it is we need. I think that’s what this meeting does the best, is letting them know that.”

These conversations allowed the directors to ask questions on the projects and how the projects bring value to the farmers.

“This resulted in the tough job of finding the best of the best,” Kee said. “All these projects that we reviewed were excellent projects, but we want to select the best of those. There’s a few that hit the ground and some people were disappointed to hit the ground. That’s what happens when you go with the best, the best is sometimes really good and sometimes they just don’t quite cut it.”

‘Better research’

Growers reviewed proposals related to nutrient management, sclerotinia rot disease, aphids, till or no till, soybean breeding and genetics, increasing yields and a variety of others.

Kee said he was impressed with the in-depth knowledge the directors presented with their questions on the topics of discussion with the research projects. He thought they showed how they could discuss complex issues with scientists and deliberate what was best for Minnesota farmers.

“I’m very impressed with the farmers abilities to say, this project can do this for us, but it doesn’t quite meet our expectations,” Stoel added. “They said, ‘Let’s go back and talk with the researcher and see what we can do better.’ And I think that’s what it’s all about. We need to have a two-way dialogue instead of just one way. By having the dialogue, I think we’re able to have better research done for all farmers in Minnesota.”

At the meeting, the directors selected projects that they will recommend to the full Council in April for final funding approval or denial. Once the Council approves the final projects and budget the contracts will start in May.

“It’s all about what’s best for the farmers in Minnesota, and how he can benefit from the research that we do,” Stoel said. “If we’re doing research, and it doesn’t get back to his bottom line, it really doesn’t make sense to be doing it.”

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