Soybean Research Principal Investigator Profile – Ken Hellevang

Ken Hellevang is a Professor and Extension Engineer of Agricultural & Biosystems Engineering at North Dakota State University. He has provided education and technical assistance in grain drying and storage; structures with a focus on energy efficiency; indoor environmental engineering primarily related to moisture and mold; and flood preparation and recovery to farmers, citizens, agribusiness, and professionals across the United States and internationally since 1980. 

He is active in the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) having served in numerous leadership roles. He has been recognized with the grade of Fellow by ASABE, and in 2018, as Professional Engineer of the Year, the highest award given to a licensed professional engineer by the Society. In 2019, he was the recipient of the ASABE Sukup Global Food Security Award in recognition of his outstanding application of engineering in the storage and handling of grains, oilseeds, and other food products. 

He has authored or co-authored more than 220 publications, in addition to numerous resources on the internet and distributed by private businesses, professional societies, and universities internationally. Hellevang has presented hundreds of seminars and has provided engineering assistance to thousands of people across the United States and internationally. 

Soybean Research Principal Investigator Profile – Sam Markell

Sam Markell is a professor and Extension plant pathologist at North Dakota State University. The focus of his Extension and research program is to develop and deliver management recommendations to growers to help them manage important diseases of soybean and other broadleaf crops in North Dakota.

Together with his crew and students, Markell conducts a large, applied field research program with high quality foliar and soil-borne trials that support the crop protection industry in North Dakota. He is known as a highly regarded authority on plant disease management.

Markell has been an excellent advisor and mentor to a number of high-quality graduate students who have subsequently become effective extension educators and crop protection industry scientists.

Soybean Research Principal Investigator Profile – David Holshouser

David Holshouser, professor and Extension soybean agronomist, Virginia Tech

Why did you decide to pursue a career that includes soybean research?
Nearly all cropping systems in Virginia include soybeans, largely due to the crop’s flexibility with planting date and ability to yield well under all environments. The future looked very promising for soybeans and turned out to be more promising than I ever expected.

What research topic have you completed in the past or are working on now that could have or has had the most significant impact on soybean production?
Early wheat harvest improves yield and profitability of the wheat–soybean double-crop system. In addition, we have learned that deeper soil samples (12 inches) reveal potassium is more available to the soybean crop (due to leaching in low cation exchange capacity, or CEC, soils). This means potassium application rates may be reduced without soybean yield loss.

How has the soybean checkoff enhanced your ability to find answers to production problems for farmers?
Most of my applied research is supported by checkoff dollars.

Within your area of expertise, what are the top two or three general recommendations you would offer farmers to improve their management practices?

  • Build your soil resiliency.
  • Be timely with everything.
  • Learn from others.

Within your area of expertise, what do you consider to be critical soybean research needs that can impact the profitability of farmers in the future?

  • Marketing in a volatile world
  • Increasing productivity

Soybean Research Principal Investigator Profile – Chad Lee

Chad Lee, Extension professor of grains agronomy and director of the Grain and Forage Center of Excellence, University of Kentucky, focused on corn, soybeans, wheat, barley and rye

Why did you decide to pursue a career that includes soybean research?
I did two internships in ag research as an undergraduate student. My boss had a Ph.D. and she said I needed one to have a career like hers. In graduate school, I was involved in several Extension workshops and meetings. I really liked doing research and trying to find unbiased answers to farmers’ questions. Soybeans are an important crop to many farmers across America, but also a very important crop in our global food supply. I like working with a crop that has so much impact locally and potential impact beyond.

What research topic have you completed in the past or are working on now that could have or has had the most significant impact on soybean production?
We have conducted research trials on high yields in soybeans. The United Soybean Board funded that research across several states. We determined that very sound soybean management strategies focused on the fundamentals of yield are the most likely to produce high yields. Some of the other practices we tested were less likely to provide consistent yield increases. That research effort helped answer relevant questions at the time and helped us develop better research programs now. I am amazed at how many producers still reference that research.

How has the soybean checkoff enhanced your ability to find answers to production problems for farmers?
We would not be able to conduct soybean research without the soybean checkoff. Nearly all our soybean research is funded by the checkoff. Most of that comes from our state soybean board. I am impressed at how well our producers understand their production challenges, how well they communicate with my colleagues and me, and how well we work together on questions relevant to growers. The national checkoff allows agronomists to coordinate research and Extension efforts across soybean-growing areas. National funding has helped each of us improve our soybean research programs locally and identify challenges and issues that span the U.S.

Within your area of expertise, what are the top two or three general recommendations you would offer farmers to improve their management practices?
These recommendations are in the context of increased input prices for 2022:

  • Make sure adequate potassium (K) is available for the crop. If soils tests are high for K, do not apply more. If soils tests are low, apply all that is needed. Do not skimp.
  • Plant into as favorable of conditions as possible. There is a lot of interest in early planting dates, and we are studying that. One thing is clear: if we plant into stressful conditions that slow emergence, we have very little chance of maximizing yields.
  • Keep weeds away from soybeans and use soil residual herbicides. Since some herbicide supplies are low, this is a great year to bring residual herbicides into the system. If weeds get away, then high yields are not going to happen. Use full rates.

Within your area of expertise, what do you consider to be critical soybean research needs that can impact the profitability of farmers in the future?

  • Soybean planting date and flowering relative to summer solstice. There is a tremendous amount of interest in this topic yet yield data from farmers in our state suggest that early planting dates are less of a factor than weather during pod set and seed fill.
  • Improving our understanding of the probability of yield increases. There are numerous products and practices all advertised to increase yields by “3 to 5 bushels.” Those numbers are often in the range of variability in our trials and extremely difficult to confirm with replicated research. Our efforts across the country can help us better understand those probabilities and improve the knowledge for farmers to make decisions.
  • Improving yield potential in double-crop soybeans. This is a regional issue, where we plant soybeans in June after wheat harvest. The soybeans often have a lower yield than full-season soybeans planted in May. The last decade of weather has been favorable for high double-crop yields and that allows us to be more aggressive with management.

Soybean Research Principal Investigator Profile – Michael Plumblee

Michael Plumblee, Extension corn and soybean agronomy specialist/assistant professor of agronomy, Clemson University

Why did you decide to pursue a career that includes soybean research?
I decided to pursue a career that includes soybean research because I wanted to help farmers in South Carolina improve their production systems to maximize profitability and sustainability. Since soybeans are one of the state’s major row crops, the impact I can have on farmers and the economy is great. I enjoy all aspects of farming, agronomy and conducting applied research.

What research topic have you completed in the past or are working on now that could have or has had the most significant impact on soybean production?
During the last two years, we have been conducting research on irrigation scheduling with soil moisture sensors in soybeans. This research will likely have the greatest impact on soybean production in South Carolina because of the potential number of acres that could be irrigated in the state coupled with preserving and utilizing water resources as best we can. Ultimately, we have set up experiments to determine the optimum soil moisture sensor threshold for soybeans that maximizes profitability and irrigation water use efficiency.

How has the soybean checkoff enhanced your ability to find answers to production problems for farmers?
The soybean checkoff in South Carolina has enhanced my ability to find answers to production problems for farmers by ultimately supporting me and my research and Extension program in many ways. The soybean checkoff board has assisted with conducting research, providing on-farm locations for research, answering production questions, asking questions about the research to refine objectives and treatments, sponsoring Extension programs and allowing me to advise graduate students who can research specific problems in detail.

Within your area of expertise, what are the top two or three general recommendations you would offer farmers to improve their management practices?
Within agronomy, my top two general recommendations I offer are:

 1.) timeliness with all production activities and

 2.) not forgetting the fundamentals when it comes to fertility, planting and overall crop protection.

Often, we try to overcomplicate various parts of production systems or look for new solutions that seem too good to be true. This can hinder profitability. Being timely with field operations and input applications can provide large yield and profit benefits.

Within your area of expertise, what do you consider to be critical soybean research needs that can impact the profitability of farmers in the future?
The research need I consider critical for soybeans is continued breeding efforts for host plant resistance to nematodes, pests and disease in high yielding germplasm. Reducing losses from these issues will help increase production and sustainability and time and money efficiency.

Soybean Research Principal Investigator Profile – Jonathan Kleinjan

Jonathan Kleinjan, Extension agronomist, South Dakota State University

Why did you decide to pursue a career that includes soybean research?
I grew up on a crop and livestock operation in eastern South Dakota. My main interest was always the cropping/agronomy side of the operation. Following my bachelor’s degree, I farmed for three years and realized that I did not want to milk cows for a living. I returned to graduate school where I concentrated in soil fertility and precision agriculture.

What research topic have you completed in the past or are working on now that could have or has had the most significant impact on soybean production?
I have primarily worked with soybean planting date and relative maturity interactions and foliar fungicide applications. I’ve also participated in national studies involving nitrogen and sulfur fertilization in soybeans.

How has the soybean checkoff enhanced your ability to find answers to production problems for farmers?
In South Dakota, checkoff dollars have enabled us to participate in national soybean applied research studies and my participation in the Soybean Research Principal Investigator Group.

Within your area of expertise, what are the top two or three general recommendations you would offer farmers to improve their management practices?
Spend time on variety selection. Plant early with a longer relative maturity soybean to maximize yield potential. Use a fungicide seed treatment and protect the plant with a fungicide during early reproductive stages in growing seasons with favorable disease conditions (most seasons).

Within your area of expertise, what do you consider to be critical soybean research needs that can impact the profitability of farmers in the future?
There is a multitude of new products available to soybean producers including biologicals, activators, foliar fertilizer formulations, etc. We need to understand both if, and in what environmental situations, these products can be effective. Also, non-biased variety trials remain important along with applied research on fertility, planting date, seeding rate and more.

Soybean Research Principal Investigator Profile – Seth Naeve

Seth Naeve, Extension soybean agronomist, University of Minnesota

Why did you decide to pursue a career that includes soybean research?
The only professor at Iowa State University (ISU) who would take me on in grad school happened to be a soybean physiologist. Also, a little-known fact is that my father was active in soybean organizations many years ago.

What research topic have you completed in the past or are working on now that could have or has had the most significant impact on soybean production?
We are currently doing some great work while looking at the interactions between drainage, tillage and residue levels. My labs at ISU and at the University of Minnesota discovered the tradeoffs between soybean protein quantity and quality. 

How has the soybean checkoff enhanced your ability to find answers to production problems for farmers?
By design, soybean checkoff projects are evaluated by producers themselves. Projects are funded for many reasons, but at the core is the value each project provides back to famer profitability.

Within your area of expertise, what are the top two or three general recommendations you would offer farmers to improve their management practices?

  • Choose the best soybean varieties available for each farm.
  • Plant early.
  • Reduce tillage while maximizing residue and soil cover.

Within your area of expertise, what do you consider to be critical soybean research needs that can impact the profitability of farmers in the future?
We need research that will support U.S. Soy as a high-value crop to the end user. We are currently a low-cost producer for the world. Brazil will continue to make more, lower-cost soybeans. We need to know what the world wants and figure out how to produce it for them, not ask them what they are willing to pay for what we have.

Soybean Research Principal Investigator Profile – David Moseley

David Moseley, soybean specialist, Louisiana State University (LSU) AgCenter

Why did you decide to pursue a career that includes soybean research?
I was able to study soybean research as a Ph.D. student in a soybean breeding group at the University of Arkansas. I enjoyed helping to improve soybean production by evaluating new varieties and improving best management practices.

What research topic have you completed in the past or are working on now that could have or has had the most significant impact on soybean production?
I would say developing and evaluating new varieties.

How has the soybean checkoff enhanced your ability to find answers to production problems for farmers?
The soybean checkoff has funded projects that made it possible for me to hire a research team, purchase supplies, and travel to visit with producers and attend grower meetings.

Within your area of expertise, what are the top two or three general recommendations you would offer farmers to improve their management practices?
Select the most adapted variety for your area that has great yield potential and a good disease resistance package.

Within your area of expertise, what do you consider to be critical soybean research needs that can impact the profitability of farmers in the future?
We need to continue to develop high-yielding soybean varieties and find the most adapted varieties for each producer.

Soybean Research Principal Investigator Profile – Laura Lindsey

Laura Lindsey, associate professor, soybean and small grain crop production specialist, Ohio State University

Why did you decide to pursue a career that includes soybean research?
I had a part-time Extension appointment during my Ph.D. program at Michigan State University. I enjoyed doing applied field research and transferring results to farmers, so I pursued a career in university Extension.

What research topic have you completed in the past or are working on now that could have or has had the most significant impact on soybean production?
Recently, my lab has done a lot of work on soybean planting date, including “ultra-early” planting and interactions with other management practices. Soybean planting date is the number one management factor that influences soybean yield.

How has the soybean checkoff enhanced your ability to find answers to production problems for farmers?
Many of my soybean checkoff research projects are based on questions from farmers. Farmers make interesting observations and ask really good questions, so a lot of my hypotheses are based on my interactions with them. The checkoff enables me to help answer these questions in replicated field trials across the state.

Within your area of expertise, what are the top two or three general recommendations you would offer farmers to improve their management practices?

  • Use your university’s Extension network. Newsletters, scouting guides, field days, winter meetings and bulletins are all good ways to improve your management and profitability.
  • Scout fields regularly. It’s important to see what’s going on in your fields and what is limiting yield. This includes soil testing for fertility and soybean cyst nematode, looking for insects, diseases and weeds during the growing season, and reviewing your management plan and yield data over the winter.

Within your area of expertise, what do you consider to be critical soybean research needs that can impact the profitability of farmers in the future?
Evaluating inputs will be important, including fungicides, insecticides, biological products and even cover crops. Is there a return on your investment for these inputs and practices?

Soybean Research Principal Investigator Profile – Hans Kandel

Hans Kandel, professor and Extension agronomist broadleaf crops, North Dakota State University (NDSU) Department of Plant Sciences

Why did you decide to pursue a career that includes soybean research?
Soybean production intrigued me, as the crop was relatively new in the northern region of the U.S., when I joined the University of Minnesota Extension Service in 1995. Producers had many questions about basic information including variety selection, tolerance to iron deficiency chlorosis, planting and general management of the crop.

What research topic have you completed in the past or are working on now that could have or has had the most significant impact on soybean production?
The eastern part of North Dakota has a large soybean production area within the Red River of the North Valley. Excess moisture can be a limiting factor in soybean production there. I was interested in water management and conducted replicated soybean testing under no tile vs tile drained/water table managed conditions. Based on 20 site years of data, soybean production was seven percent higher with controlled drainage compared to no subsurface drainage. 

The second major area of research I’ve been interested in is planting date and cultivar maturity. Research indicated each day producers can plant earlier in the period May 1 to June 1, they can gain an extra 0.35 bushels per acre. When producers increase the maturity of the cultivar by 0.1 units, they can gain 0.7 bushels per acre if the cultivar is within the region’s adapted range.

How has the soybean checkoff enhanced your ability to find answers to production problems for farmers?
Since I came to NDSU in 2007, the North Dakota Soybean Council and the North Central Soybean Research Program have graciously funded many soybean research projects using funds from the soybean checkoff. This has allowed me to be involved in several projects that benefit regional producers directly. I have also been able to contribute data for regional interpretation, in cooperation with many State Extension soybean agronomists throughout the country.

Within your area of expertise, what are the top two or three general recommendations you would offer farmers to improve their management practices?

  • Use good water management, including surface and subsurface drainage.
  • Select a cultivar with the highest iron deficiency tolerance, where needed.
  • Select a cultivar with the appropriate maturity. A later maturing (adapted) cultivar can be selected when soybeans are planted early.
  • Plant as early as possible in May, as weather and soil conditions allow.
  • Use row spacings narrower than 30 inches – for instance 14-15 inches.

Within your area of expertise, what do you consider to be critical soybean research needs that can impact the profitability of farmers in the future?
Research needs to continue regarding adaptability of newly released cultivars. To optimize soybean production economics, I’d like to see research continue on the effectiveness of newly developed inputs and interaction with seeding rates, row spacings, varieties and planting dates.