Checkoff Projects Identify Solutions Farmers Can Use
Soy checkoff activities support strategic objectives to increase the value of both components of U.S. soybeans
What is this pest, and how do I fight it?
The soy checkoff answers many questions like this from U.S. soybean farmers by supporting production research aimed at producing higher yields, fighting pests and developing better soybean varieties.
“As farmers, production research is the easiest thing for us to understand,” says Dan Corcoran, United Soybean Board (USB) director and soybean farmer from Piketon, Ohio. “We feel that research projects represent the most direct route to bringing farmers’ checkoff investments back to them to improve their operation.”
As another growing season gets underway, let’s take a look at three unique projects making significant progress for farmers.
Maximization of Soybean Yield Through Agronomics Project
Yield is the No. 1 priority for most soybean farmers. With that in mind, the soy checkoff recently funded research to develop an overarching set of practical production recommendations to help soybean farmers in their quest to increase yields. Completed in fall 2012, farmers can put the recommendations to use this year.
The project developed best-management practices for all states where soybeans are grown. Surprisingly, treatment figures across states showed similar trends. Because of this, researchers developed a set of general recommendations that apply to most U.S. farmers, including:
- Narrow rows: Return per acre can be maximized by planting rows narrower than 30 inches without any additional inputs.
- Select inputs carefully: A well-oiled soybean machine is not built with just a single product. However, there is no guarantee that additional inputs will increase yield, so have a good reason for every product you use.
- Increase seed rate: Higher seed rates lead to slightly higher yields, as well as provide some additional yield stability, so there is enough return on investment for the extra seed.
- Mind the fundamentals first: It’s important to do a good job with the three basics — fertilizer, timeliness of planting and managing diseases, insects and weeds.
“This project has to do with the here and now,” says Corcoran. “It helps us farmers feed the world and answers how we can increase our yields without access to more land.”
For more findings from the project, visit the Extreme Beans website or download the Extreme Beans app on your Apple iPhone and Android-enabled smartphones and other devices.
Kudzu Bug Project
Relatively new to the United States, the kudzu bug is a nuisance pest that feeds on the stem and leaf petioles of soybean plants. The checkoff funds research to manage this insect and develop economic thresholds for spraying.
First found in a nine-county area in northeastern Georgia in the fall of 2009, this invasive species has spread to most of the southeast United States. Today, the kudzu bug has infested all of South Carolina, most of Georgia and North Carolina and parts of Alabama, Virginia, Florida, Tennessee and Mississippi.
It’s likely that only one gravid (pregnant) female, or an egg mass from one female, gained entry into the country and started this whole mess, notes Jeremy Greene, Ph.D., professor of entomology at Clemson University who leads the kudzu bug project.
“We’re working on numeric thresholds to find out how many of these insects per plant or sweep net justifies an insecticide application,” says Greene. “As of now, there’s no natural control in containing this bug, and it’s about to jump over the Mississippi River and get into some serious soybean acres in the Midsouth. This insect usually outcompetes all other species in a field and can cause yield losses exceeding 50 percent when left unchecked.”
Kudzu bugs produce two generations per year — once in late spring/early summer during early growth stages of kudzu and early-planted soybeans and then again near the end of the growing season, before kudzu bugs start to look for overwintering sites. The species prefers legumes and uses kudzu plants and soybeans as primary reproductive hosts. It also feeds on other vegetable bean crops and can be found infesting numerous other plants it uses as transient hosts. The species can also be found in wheat, corn, cotton and peanut fields, but these crops will most likely not have issues with the pest.
Luckily, insecticides can kill this species to minimize yield loss, but the key to controlling this bug is timing. USB research has found that early-planted soybeans are more susceptible to this pest than later-planted fields, but if an insecticide is sprayed too early, a re-treatment during migratory periods may be necessary. Experts recommend interrupting the development of each generation by waiting to apply an insecticide when the immature stage of the insect is detected.
“Without this research, there would be very limited information about the kudzu bug, and farmers would spray the pest without really knowing what type of yield damage it could cause,” says Greene. “This research is essential to the success of soybean farmers, otherwise everyone would still be guessing.”
For other treatment recommendations, and to see a map of kudzu bug infestation, visit the Soy Checkoff Kudzu Bug Informational Guide.
Nested Association Mapping Project
The Nested Association Mapping (NAM) project’s primary goal is to locate genes that control yield and seed composition, as well as other agronomic traits, so that those genes can be exploited to create better varieties more quickly. Using both elite U.S. soybean varieties and soybean germplasm from other parts of the world, researchers can identify and determine gene locations on soybean chromosomes, which makes subsequent breeding much easier.
“This genetic-mapping information will help soybean breeders become more efficient in selecting new soybean varieties with high yield and improved protein concentration,” says Brian Diers, who leads the project at the University of Illinois.
The NAM project is possible because the soybean genome has already been sequenced, an accomplishment for which the soy checkoff provided funding support.
“The project is cutting-edge genome research, and we feel as farmer-leaders that the more we know about the genome, the more structured we can be in our research to improve the soybean for farmers and consumers,” says Corcoran.