As thousands made their way to St. Paul for the Minnesota State Fair, the soybean industry, including Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) and Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) directors, made their way to the University of Minnesota (UMN) Twin Cities campus for the UMN Soybean Research Center Field Day.
With a goal of bridging the efforts across academic and industry to synergize soybean improvements that benefit researchers, students, farmers and the entire supply chain, the Soybean Research Center was established in 2020 and brings researchers together across multiple disciplines. With checkoff support from MSR&PC, it’s another example of the Council’s commitment to future farmers.
“The Soybean Research Center has been something that’s been evolving over many, many years,” said Seth Naeve, UMN agronomy and plant genetics professor and Extension agronomist. “I remember discussions about it 20 years ago. We have some of the best soybean researchers of any institution in the country and, as a group, we do one of the best jobs working together.”
Each growing season, farmers fight the battle against weeds, insects and diseases. The Soybean Research Center is working to find effective solutions for growers that won’t break the bank or negatively impact yield.
Debalin Sarangi, UMN agronomy and plant genetics assistant professor, focuses on weed management strategies that protect water quality and enhance crop productivity and economic returns.
“We ask growers what research they want to see from us, and their No. 1 priority is herbicide – better herbicide and new herbicide,” Sarangi said. “But we used too much herbicide in the past and now we have herbicide-resistant weeds, so we are working on ways to mitigate that issue.”
Unfortunately, waterhemp is stubborn – as Minnesota soybean growers are well aware. From his research, Sarangi has found that waterhemp is resistant to six of the seven groups of herbicides, with Liberty being the only viable defense remaining. However, history tends to repeat itself and if growers don’t want the noxious weed to become resistant to Liberty, Sarangi suggests incorporating non-chemical management tactics.
“We are proposing that growers have a diversity in management practices,” Sarangi said. “If we combine non-chemical management practices with chemical practices, we will reduce the selection pressure for herbicides.”
Weeds aren’t the only nuisance soybean growers contend with. Dean Malvick, UMN plant pathology professor and Extension specialist, is taking a close look at white mold and sudden death syndrome.
“One of our studies is focused on looking at fungicides and other chemical applications to see how well they suppress white mold,” Malvick said. “We also do a lot of work with sudden death syndrome which is a fungal disease that affects the root. Those studies are looking primarily at seed treatments and variety resistance.”
That isn’t all. The Soybean Research Center is working on an array of projects, all designed to address soybean production and utilization issues and research needs.
“It’s a place for us to gather as researchers internally to learn from each other and know more about the research that other soybean research graduates are doing,” Naeve said. “It’s also an external vehicle to communicate with other stakeholder groups.”
The Council’s partnership with UMN has multiple layers. This fall, MSR&PC partnered with Gophers football to promote the economic and environmental benefits of biodiesel. By continuing to build upon its relationship with the University of Minnesota, MSR&PC is committed to long-term investments that will build a solid foundation for Minnesota soybean growers.
As the third-largest producer of soybeans and the top producer of food-grade soybeans in the country, Minnesota is a soybean powerhouse. Through its partnership with the Soybean Research Center, MSR&PC continues on its mission to increase Minnesota soybean farmer profitability.
“The Soybean Research Center is another tool in our toolbox and partnering with them is another way that our checkoff dollars are working for us,” said MSR&PC Director Ron Obermoller. “With wise checkoff investments like this, we are setting up future Minnesota soybean growers for success.”