Iowa Soybean Research Center funds four Iowa State research projects

banner graphic with headshots of six researchers, their names and departments
Iowa State University faculty awarded 2021 funding for Iowa Soybean Research Center research projects.

AMES, Iowa – The Iowa Soybean Research Center recently awarded funding for four soybean research projects at Iowa State University, the largest level of funding invested in a single year by the ISRC since its inception in 2014.

The center’s Industry Advisory Council met in September to consider several research ideas and offer guidance on how to invest the funds that were available. Due to the high quality and innovativeness of the proposed research, and thanks to increased financial support provided by the Iowa Soybean Association, the ISRC granted a total of $320,000. The funded projects are described below.

  • Liang Dong, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Steve Whitham, professor of plant pathology and microbiology, will receive two years of funding to develop “Low‐cost Multimodal Sensor Arrays for Early Detection of Soybean Diseases.” The researchers aim to develop a diagnostic device for economical, rapid testing of soybean pathogens to better detect diseases at an early stage to reduce their spread and minimize damage. The technology will facilitate rapid monitoring of soybean crops during the growing season to help make management decisions that protect yield potential. Also, the technology will be used by researchers to better understand pathogen-induced stress in soybean at different stages and under diverse conditions.
  • Prashant Jha, associate professor of agronomy and extension weed specialist, will receive two-year funding for a project on “Enhancing Implementation and Adoption of Non‐Chemical Tactics for Integrated Weed Management in Soybean.” Waterhemp is one of the most problematic and economically damaging weed species in soybean, and its resistance to several herbicides has increased the need for management solutions. Jha received initial funding for this project from USDA‐NIFA Crop Protection and Pest Management Program in September 2021, working with collaborators from Arkansas and Kansas. The new ISRC support will help Jha expand the scope of the project through additional farm trials. His team will evaluate the effectiveness of two non‐chemical weed management tactics (cover crops and harvest weed seed control) in conjunction with herbicides while also quantifying the economic benefits and risks of adopting a diversified integrated weed management program.
  • Leonor Leandro, professor of plant pathology and microbiology, will receive two years of funding to continue and expand work the ISRC initially funded in 2020 titled “Time of Disease Onset as an Early Indicator of Soybean Resistance to SDS.” Leandro’s research team previously found that timing of the initial appearance of SDS foliar symptoms during the growing season was strongly correlated with late-season SDS severity and soybean yield. Leandro is exploring whether the timing of SDS symptom onset could be used as a more reliable measure of soybean resistance to SDS than late-season evaluations of disease that currently are used. The research could benefit soybean breeding programs by improving screening methods used to identify soybean lines resistant to SDS.
  • Steve Whitham, professor of plant pathology and microbiology, Lie Tang, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, and Danny Singh, professor of agronomy, will receive funding to study “Effects of Increased Atmospheric CO2 and Abiotic Stress on Soybean Performance in the Enviratron.” The research team will investigate soybean performance with respect to disease development and abiotic stress tolerance under future climate scenarios. More specifically, they will study the effects of CO2 on soybean responses to pathogens and the effects of elevated ambient temperatures on soybean phenotype and gene expression. Experiments will be conducted in the Enviratron, a controlled-environment plant growth facility developed at Iowa State, to enable multiple environmental variables to be controlled to study effects on plant performance. The Enviratron is unique in that data collection is automated by the use of a robotic rover that visits the plants in growth chambers and collects data using an array of cameras and sensors. The long‐term goal of this research is to generate scientific insights and inform forward‐looking breeding approaches to develop soybean germplasm lines well suited for future crop production environments.

ISRC Director Greg Tylka said, “We are very grateful for the thoughtful discussion and guidance of the farmers and industry representatives on the center’s Industry Advisory Council along with the increased financial support provided by the Iowa Soybean Association. We thank the Iowa State researchers who submitted ideas, several of which were research concepts that were revised and improved based on feedback and guidance from the Advisory Council. The breadth of the research ideas considered for funding this year was notable and included collaborations of researchers combining talents and knowledge in different areas of expertise making the research multidisciplinary in ways we had not seen before.”

“Membership on the ISRC Industry Advisory Council continues to grow, as do company contributions and commitment from insightful council members. This year’s council discussion was enhanced by several innovative and potentially high-impact research proposals coming from small interdisciplinary teams. In the end, farmers representing the checkoff and company representatives provided funding and recommendations to support several important projects,” said Ed Anderson, senior director of research for the Iowa Soybean Association and chair of the ISRC advisory council.

The ISRC is a formal collaboration of Iowa soybean farmers, industry partners, the Iowa Soybean Association and Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Current industry partners include AMVAC, BASF, Bayer, Cornelius Seed, Corteva Agriscience, FMC, GDM, Innvictis/Simplot, Merschman Seeds, Syngenta and UPL. Each industry partner has a representative who serves on the center’s advisory council. The council also has three farmer representatives and meets annually to provide feedback on research they would like to see funded.

About the Iowa Soybean Research Center

The Iowa Soybean Research Center was established in 2014 by Iowa State University in partnership with the Iowa Soybean Association. The center was founded to increase soybean production and profitability for Iowa farmers through coordinated research efforts involving Iowa State, the Iowa Soybean Association and the private sector. Information on becoming an industry partner of the Iowa Soybean Research Center is available by contacting center director Greg Tylka, 515-294-0878 or