By Christina Dittmer
On June 4, the Iowa Board of Regents approved formation of the Iowa Soybean Research Center, to be located at Iowa State University in Ames. The center, a partnership between the Iowa Soybean Association and ISU, will research soybean plant biology and production, and disseminate the information to producers. It will facilitate collaboration between public and private entities aimed at meeting the needs of Iowa soybean farmers, say ISU and ISA officials.
According to documents provided to the Board of Regents, which oversees the administration of the state's three public universities, the center is intended to "advance the understanding of soybean plant biology, increase soybean production and make production more profitable and environmentally sustainable in the future." Ultimately, the center will enable producers to profitably provide the highest yielding, highest quality soybeans and soybean products to a growing global market in a sustainable way.
New Iowa Soybean Center will bring the industry together
"It will bring the industry together," says Brian Kemp, ISA president who farms near Sibley. "The Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa State University and private industry will work together with a singular focus: improving the competitiveness of soybeans."
The center will provide a more disciplined approach when it comes to funding and identifying priority-driven research, ISA officials say. Goals include:
* Forge strong public-private partnerships
* Sustain ISU Extension and outreach communication and collaboration with growers and industry
* Increase training of students and other personnel for soybean-related research, education and production
* Increase public and private funding of soybean-related research and education
"This will provide an organization for innovation," says Greg Tylka, who will serve as center director. Tylka is a professor of plant pathology with ISU Extension and has research responsibilities in management of plant-parasitic-nematodes. "One major new result that will come from this center is to create new, stronger partnerships with industry."
Goal is to increase soybean acres, preserve profitability
ISA officials approached ISU more than a year ago about forming a center, with the goal of increasing soybean acres and profitability. As international demand for soybeans escalates, focus on soybean research will only increase.
Since Iowa traditionally leads the nation in soybean production in most years, Tylka says ISU is the perfect place for the center given the university's reputation as a leader in ag research. "We want to help Iowa farmers increase yields and preserve crop profitability," he says. Iowa produced 411 million bushels of soybeans last year.
Ed Anderson, ISA senior director of Supply & Production Systems, says the center will provide more relevant, deeper and timely communication between the public and private sectors pertaining to soybean management and emerging disease and pest issues. Anderson believes the center will soon be recognized for excellence in soybean research, teaching and outreach. That will attract even more funding, he says.
Focus will be on disciplined research, delivering timely results
"I envision it being a model, if not the premier soybean research center, in the country," Anderson says. "By focusing research with a disciplined approach and delivering results in a timely way, we will raise the bar for farmers in Iowa."
The center will be housed in Agronomy Hall on the ISU campus, the hub of ISU's current soybean research programs and its supporting faculty and staff. ISA and ISU will provide funding the first two years, estimated at $148,164 contributed by ISA and $151,868 by ISU. Funding sources include the Iowa soybean checkoff and the ISU Department of Agronomy Baker Endowment for Excellence in Agronomy. ISA, industry contracts and gifts, along with ISU College of Agriculture & Life Sciences royalties, will fund the center in year three and beyond. The estimated budget by year seven is $228,232. Operating costs will mostly pay for staff.
The center will be transformational for ISU. It will bring together, for the first time, soybean scientists and educators from public and private entities to discuss research and education needs and share experiences and technologies to advance the business of growing soybeans in Iowa. "There's no home to capture that synergy right now," Tylka says. "And that's what we hope the center will do."
Christina Dittmer is a Wallaces Farmer intern.