Common Goal: Competitive Soybeans

Many soybean producers across the U.S. may be missing out on high yielding soybeans, according to Palle Pedersen, Iowa State University Extension soybean agronomist. This has led to national effort.

Pedersen says an emphasis on genetics and reduced funding for Extension education and applied science on a national level has led to a reduction in applied research. "The mindset for a producer is often to buy the most expensive seed and then believe that is enough to maximize yield," says Pedersen. "But genetics is only one part of the equation. Most soybean producers are giving up easy bushels."

Pedersen is spearheading an effort to coordinate six land-grant universities in developing guidelines and education resources for soybean farmers nationwide. A checkoff-funded grant from the United Soybean Board will finance the research and outreach collaboration of Iowa State, the University of Minnesota, Michigan State University, the University of Arkansas, the University of Kentucky, and Louisiana State University. Iowa State will be the lead institution in the project which will start in the fall of 2008 and continue through 2011. The six states represented account for 33 percent of soybean production nationwide.

Current soybean varieties have the potential to yield more than 100 bushels per acre, but this potential is almost never realized in a field environment, Pedersen says. The effort will collect data to understand the yield correlation between genetics and agronomic practices. The results will then be part of an outreach component to help Extension specialists educate and provide materials for producers.

"Unlike Iowa, many state Extension agencies do not have a member of their staff dedicated to a single crop," says Pedersen. "Team efforts like this one will continue to be more important in the future."

The effort’s underlying goal is to help soybeans stay competitive as part of the crop rotation. Soybean production is facing increased competition internationally from South America and domestically from corn acres needed to feed ethanol production. In 2006, planted soybean acres in Iowa were down 15 percent.

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