Research HighlightsSoybean Industry Rallies Around Novel Research Vision
By Aaron Putze, APR
Success can’t be left to chance.
For U.S. soybean farmers to thrive, new, innovative and broad-scoped research must be coordinated with multiple partners up and down today and tomorrow’s value chain. It must also align with farmer priorities and solutions based on the needs of end users.
Easier said than done.
Undeterred, soybean leaders gathered for a first-of-its-kind Soybean Research Forum and Think Tank in Indianapolis. The goal: to improve the industry’s approach to collaborative research to accelerate short- and long-term profits, productivity, and sustainability of US soybean farmers. Yield, sustainable and regenerative agriculture, and new uses and markets were topics of focus.
Attendees included representatives from 19 state soybean organizations (QSSBs), two regional checkoff organizations, the United Soybean Board (USB), 17 state land grant universities, 12 large and small companies, and one federal agency.
“If soybean production and use are going to keep pace with market needs and farmer expectations, then you have to be intentional about identifying and pursuing the basic and applied research opportunities that feed the pipeline,” said Ed Anderson, PhD, Iowa Soybean Association’s Sr. Director of Research and Executive Director of the North Central Soybean Research Program (NCSRP). “That was the vision and the result of our time together in Indianapolis.”
Participants devoted 48 hours of uninterrupted time to evaluating the status of soybean farming and soybean uses today and tomorrow through the lens of research. More importantly, they identified new ways of bringing the right people, expertise and technologies together for making opportunities a reality moving forward.
“The future is bright when we’re focused and working together,” said Anderson, the lead visionary and architect of the forum.
A survey of soybean farmers from around the country was conducted prior to the forum to identify priority research topics. Making the list were yield improvement, soybean quality, regenerative ag, climate resiliency in genetics and production and driving new uses and markets for soybeans.
With priority topics in hand, Anderson and the multistate forum planning team identified speakers and an effective meeting format. Given the diverse audience of soybean industry stakeholders, panel discussions and small and large group dialogues were essentials.
“The most difficult part of any project is getting started,” said Greg Luce, Director of Research for the Missouri Soybean Association. “A forum was needed to propel us to action by identifying issues, who will lead action on those issues and rally an industry-wide effort to do better on research that matters most to farmers.”
Immediately following the forum, QSSB staff further reviewed input captured from the dialogues. Additional discussions with research stakeholders were held during a meeting of state and national soybean staff in October in Nashville.
A completed white paper utilizing the ideas, topics and strategies from the forum and organizing them into objectives and action items will be available.
From a research perspective, the primary outcome of the work, both in Indianapolis and Nashville, was a shared understanding that this important work will only be accomplished through dedicated and directed staff and programming focus, Anderson said.
“And, doing the work with minimal overhead and administrative layers, and no added bureaucracy or politics,” he added.
Four goals emerging from the months-long effort to guide research collaborations powered by the soybean checkoff are:
- Provide research-based solutions to soybean farmers for fully integrated and intelligent production systems that meet differentiated value opportunities.
- Provide organized and focused leadership for cooperation, coordination, and alignment of soybean farmer research priorities and investments among states, regions, and the USB.
- Establish leadership on partnerships for market research and similar work directed at attaining full connection across the soybean value chain and lead soybean research priorities that enhance farmer profitability.
- This will enable delivery of short and long-range processors, customer, end-user and consumer-driven products and solutions.
- Establish the most cohesive, coordinated, and meaningful research communications and research marketing program to help promote US Soy.
- Will be done in partnership with soybean checkoff communications and marketing teams with expertise and/or contract relationships in communicating and marketing soybean farmers, farming, and science and technology innovations.
The forum and goals established from it are just the beginning.
“Greater coordination and transparency on soybean research is essential,” said Dr. Jim Specht, Emeritus Professor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of Agronomy and Horticulture. “This will enhance the pace and success of research and maximize every soybean checkoff dollar invested.”
Anderson said the soybean industry is energized by the opportunities that greater collaboration will bring and is already acting on the goals.
Batting leadoff is organizing focused leadership to coordinate and align soybean farmer research priorities and investments nationwide.
“It’s rewarding and exciting to see progress on a nationwide, coordinated approach to research,” Anderson said. “Every acre of soybean production and every soybean farmer will be the beneficiary.”
Putze (firstname.lastname@example.org) serves as Sr. Director of Information and Education for the Iowa Soybean Association. He was also a participant in the Soybean Research Forum and Think Tank held in Indianapolis.
Learn more of the event from Twitter: #SoyThinkTank.