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The SCN Coalition Honored by the Public Relations Society of America

The SCN Coalition leaders, Greg Tylka (far left) and Sam Markell (far right), attended the celebration event honoring PRSA’s Silver Anvil Award winners along with Max Wenck and Julianne Johnston from MorganMyers. Photo: SCN Coalition

The SCN Coalition’s public relations campaign to move more soybean farmers to actively manage the soybean cyst nematode (SCN) was the recipient of the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) prestigious Silver Anvil Award in the “Issues Management” category. For more than 75 years, the Silver Anvil has been considered an icon of the communications profession. The award ceremony, held in New York City’s Edison Ballroom on May 19, 2022, recognized and honored the best communications and public relations campaigns from around the country.

America’s farmers have been waging war against SCN to improve their profitability and sustainability by harvesting more soybeans from less acres. These parasitic roundworms feed on soybean roots, reducing the crop’s yield potential,1 and requiring farmers to plant more acres to feed the world.

Market research showed that many farmers were unaware of SCN’s resistance to their management until The SCN Coalition, a public-private partnership, created a campaign to help farmers actively manage SCN. The campaign has motivated up to 18 percent more farmers to actively manage SCN, enabling them to farm more sustainably – both economically and environmentally.

“SCN is the No. 1 yield-grabbing pest in U.S. soybean fields, costing farmers more than $1.5 billion in losses each year,” 2 says Dr. Greg Tylka, nematologist at Iowa State University and one of the leaders of The SCN Coalition. “In areas where soybean varieties with the most common SCN resistance genes were grown for more than 30 years, SCN populations have been reproducing and thereby reducing soybean yields. The SCN Coalition was created to generate awareness of this often unrecognized but major source of yield loss as well as the need for farmers to actively manage the pest and for researchers to develop new tools to bring to farmers to protect yields against SCN.”

Another coalition leader, Dr. Sam Markell, plant pathologist at North Dakota State University, says the success of The SCN Coalition’s activities is remarkable. “Even the most conservative of estimates show the messaging campaign has likely saved farmers hundreds of millions of dollars annually. The coalition’s SCN guidance is reaching farmers, and they are responding. Market research results suggest The SCN Coalition is one of the most impactful public-private partnerships and extension awareness campaigns in U.S. agriculture.” 

Tylka, Markell and a small team of scientists, with the help of strategic communications firm MorganMyers, conceived the idea of creating a public-private partnership in 2015. The SCN Coalition now includes national, regional, and state soybean checkoff organizations, nine private industry partners and 30 universities across 28 states and Ontario, Canada. 

“A coordinated effort from many committed partners is starting to make a big difference for soybean farmers,” Markell says. “Winning a Silver Anvil Award is a testament to how a public-private partnership can successfully tackle the biggest problems of modern agriculture.” 

References

  1. Virulence and Reproduction on Resistant Soybean Varieties in Iowa from 2001 to 2015 and the Effects on Soybean Yields. Plant Health Progress. 2017. 18(3):146-155. 
  2. Bandara, A. Y., Weerasooriya, D. K., Bradley, C. A., Allen, T. W., & Esker, P. D. (2020). Dissecting the economic impact of soybean diseases in the United States over two decades. PloS one15(4), e0231141. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0231141.