Iowa Soybean Association Funds More Than $2 Million in Research at Iowa State University This Year

Singh in field
Asheesh "Danny" Singh, Iowa State agronomy assistant professor and Monsanto Chair in Soybean Breeding, is the principal investigator on one of the new projects funded by the Iowa Soybean Association. His research team will be breeding soybeans for higher yields.

AMES, Iowa — A study seeking to develop soybean “disease signatures,” detected with devices such as unmanned aerial vehicles, to help alert farmers of crop stress is one of 19 research projects funded this year at Iowa State University by the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA).

The association invested $2,117,688 soybean checkoff dollars supporting this year’s research at ISU. The Iowa Soybean Association has invested more than $50 million in research at Iowa State University over the past 50 years.

In the disease signature project, researchers in agronomy, plant pathology and microbiology and mechanical engineering will use sensor-equipped ground vehicles along with unmanned aerial vehicles to look for signs of diseases including soybean cyst nematode (SCN), sudden death syndrome (SDS), Phytophthora root rot, brown stem rot and stem canker. Advanced imaging instruments that detect the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum will be used to develop the signatures to allow identification, differentiation and prediction of diseases.

“These projects funded by the soybean checkoff represent the continuation of a decades-long relationship between Iowa State and ISA that ensures Iowa’s status as the nation's leader in soybean production,” said Greg Tylka, Iowa State nematologist and director of the Iowa Soybean Research Center.

Another new project funded by the Iowa Soybean Association will establish two soybean research and development sites for remote-sensing tools and educational aids for Iowa farmers.

The ISA-funded research at ISU also covers many areas of soybean production and environmental stewardship. Other new projects include:

• Finding ways to reduce stand and yield loss associated with Pythium seedling disease, which has been increasing as farmers plant earlier when colder temperatures favor the pathogen’s development.

• Examining new ways to manage the soybean aphid through field tests of seed treatments, insecticides and host-plant resistance.

• Evaluating the agronomic performance and nematode control provided by SCN-resistant soybean varieties marketed to Iowa soybean farmers; the effects of increasing SCN reproduction on yields of SCN-resistant soybean varieties; and the effects of nematode-protectant seed treatments on agronomic performance and reproduction of SCN on resistant soybean varieties.

• Developing non-transgenic soybeans with increased protein and minimum impact on oil content and increased defenses to diseases and pests.

• Using climate data to inform field management and business development decisions to improve profitability of and environmental impacts of soybean farming.

• Breeding soybean cultivars that provide high yield and protection against stresses including insects and diseases to keep Iowa farmers competitive and profitable.

• Establishing monarch butterfly-breeding habitats on sites of bioreactors, an underground system that treats water leaving crop fields to remove nitrates. The areas above bioreactors are usually planted in grasses.

• Studying the potential of bioreactors to reduce downstream transport of contaminants commonly detected in manure applied to cropland, including pathogens and phosphorous.

The association also continues to support ongoing research projects from previous years, including:

• Improving soybean yields in Iowa by using science-based simulation models to measure critical crop and soil data needed and develop pre-season decision support tools, and adding an in-season management tool to forecast soybean yields, crop growth and water/nitrogen requirements in soybean fields.

• Protecting soybean yields by breeding genetic resistance to diseases and pests of economic importance to farmers in Iowa, namely Phytophthora root rot; brown stem rot; SCN; SDS; iron-deficiency chlorosis; and emerging factors, such as Asian soybean rust.

• Identifying the risk of SDS developing and quantify the impact of outbreaks on soybean yields and quality.

• Finding agents of soybean-nematode interaction with the goal to engineer new sources of resistance against SCN.

• Developing new soybean breeding lines to improve disease resistance, yield and seed quality including resistance to SCN of future soybean varieties.

• Determining the strategic use of soybean seed treatments for seedling disease, SCN and insect pest management to improve soybean yield potential.

• Building on previous research of soybean foliar diseases to better predict yield responses to fungicides, and help farmers decide if and when fungicides should be applied.

• Testing the effects of soil conservation practices, including cover crops, crop rotations and reduced tillage, on the development of SDS. Initial results from the first two years of research found that extended crop rotations that include oats and clover, or oats and alfalfa, suppress SDS compared to the typical corn-soybean rotation.

• Examining the role of ethylene in the soybean plant’s defense against SDS. Ethylene regulates physiological processes in plants and is a major component of plant defenses.

• Supporting the Iowa Soybean Research Center, which was established in 2014 to bring together scientists and educators from public and private entities to discuss research and education needs, share research and education experiences, ideas and technologies and offer opportunities to sponsor efforts to advance the science and business of growing soybeans in Iowa.


The Iowa Soybean Association also funded research at Iowa State through the North Central Soybean Research Program, which was established in 1992 by state checkoff organizations in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Five projects at Iowa State funded through this program are:

• Breeding soybean cultivars that have improved resistance to SDS to protect yields.

• Evaluating and developing a biological control product for SDS and white mold.

• Using an integrated approach to enhance resistance to SCN for long-term management of the pest.

• Investigating micronutrients in the production of soybeans in the North Central region.

• Developing an integrated management and communication plan for SDS.

The Iowa Soybean Association develops policies and programs that help Iowa’s more than 40,000 soybean farmers expand profit opportunities while promoting environmentally sensitive production using the soybean checkoff and other resources. The association was founded in 1964 and is governed by an elected volunteer board of 21 farmers. It strives to be honest and transparent, fact-based and data-driven and committed to environmental stewardship, collaborations and partnerships.