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Research Highlights
Iowa Soybean Research Center: Strengthening Iowa connections

By Carol Brown, USB database communications

The Iowa Soybean Research Center (ISRC) is a great example of the proverb “grow where you are planted.”

Established in 2014, the ISRC at Iowa State University (ISU) has expanded its presence with Iowa farmers and researchers across the Midwest.

 “The center is working to advance soybean productivity and farmer profitability by supporting research projects with ISU agronomists, plant breeders and pathologists, microbiologists and other scientists,” said Greg Tylka, ISRC director.

The ISRC was established to build public–private partnerships for coordinated research, teaching, and extension activities of ISU faculty and staff who work in the areas of soybean biology, breeding, economics, precision agriculture, production, and pest management.

Funding for the center comes from the ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Iowa Soybean Association (ISA), industry partners and donations. These entities help the center maintain its unique focus on public and private prioritized academic research. In 2019, the center expanded relationships with new industry partners Syngenta, GDM, Corteva and FMC.

Focus on soybean research

“Recently, we wrapped up our third year of funding a rhizosphere microbiome and root phenotyping research project with ISU professors Gwyn Beattie and Danny Singh,” Tylka said. “Their project started with our support and will be expanding over the next three years through a grant through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This example illustrates that the Center is becoming an incubator of sorts for soybean research in Iowa and beyond.”

Tylka said the Center also is working closely with Prashant Jha, a new associate professor in the ISU Agronomy Department working in weed management, to develop projects that industry will be excited to support.

The ISRC also supported a joint project to further develop the online decision-making tool Interactive Summaries of On-Farm Strip Trials or ISOFAST. Researchers for this work include Peter Kyveryga, ISA Analytics director, and ISU associate professor of agronomy Fernando Miguez.

The research conducted through the ISRC will impact farmers as discoveries are unearthed. Tylka provided an example of ISU adjunct assistant professor Arti Singh’s development of a smart phone app to help farmers identify diseases. This project has been expanded through a larger 3-year grant from the USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Connections beyond research

The ISRC staff hosts two to three field trips each year specifically for ISU researchers who may spend the bulk of their time in a laboratory setting. The destinations are different for each trip, but they have the same goal of allowing on-campus staff, students and faculty to see how their laboratory research has real-world implications.

The ISU researchers tour Robb Ewoldt’s (left) farm in eastern Iowa as part of one of the Iowa Soybean Research Center’s field trips.

“Often, some of ISU’s researchers and graduate students are from other states or countries and haven’t had the opportunity to explore Iowa farms and the businesses that support farming,” Tylka said. “We want to ensure the laboratory-to-farm connection is acknowledged.”

The field trips are highly successful for the scientists, the farmers and the agribusinesses whom they visit; everyone learns something, he said.

The ISRC also serves as a connection between ISU researchers and Iowa farmers. 

“A prime example of this is the emergence of the soybean gall midge, a newly found fly whose larvae are destroying soybeans in parts of Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota,” said Ed Anderson, ISA senior director of research. “The ISA research agronomists are conducting field trials on insecticide timing and frequency, while ISU entomologists are studying the behaviors and lifecycle of the midge. The ISRC can share Information across the two organizations and with ISU Extension to help farmers understand and manage this destructive pest.”

For more information about the soybean gall midge, visit the Soybean Research & Information Network website. Through research and outreach, the Iowa Soybean Research Center is indeed growing its presence in the research community, with the ag industry and farmers across the state. Visit the ISRC website for more information.

This project was funded by the soybean checkoff. To find research related to this research highlight or to see other checkoff research projects, please visit the National Soybean Checkoff Research Database.