World-Class Experts Here at Home: OSU Center for Soybean Research
OSU’s Center for Soybean Research, now at the forefront of cutting-edge soybean science, has been official for about a year now, but its story starts much earlier.
The university’s two groups of agricultural research scientists – basic experts and applied field experts – were brought together to form a center on soybean health after years of working in close proximity. Something clicked between them and with the considerable overlap between the groups, the newly merged group began generating fresh and exciting ideas.
“We have had many serendipitous discoveries,” said the Center’s director, international soybean expert Dr. Anne Dorrance. “The members of this team have collaborated and published many papers together on resistance to insects and diseases of soybeans and agronomic practices to enhance yields, so it just seemed to be the right time to form an official Center and marry these two groups together at last, so we can literally go from bench to furrow.”
The Center produces world-class work, but locally it also serves as something like an extended farm family. The SoyRes Team looked at the basic biology of the soybean in response to pathogen and insect attacks focusing on what makes a plant resistant. The Agronomic Crops Team provides hands-on support in moments of crisis to growers and crop consultants across Ohio through weekly meetings with county educators and numerous phone calls to address issues from problem weeds, fertility, insects and diseases.
“Things happen in the field, and people just want to know why,” said Dorrance. “We’re the people that come in and help figure out the why. Industry wants to know how to develop the best soybean varieties for the region. We also work with industry to help address this as well.”
Ohio soybean farmers also have a voice in determining what the Center focuses on. “We’ve gotten very good support from the Ohio Soybean Council,” said Dorrance. “And it’s not just that. The Council has provided us direction. If they think something should be a goal of ours, we can go back to our colleagues and ask, ‘Who’s doing this? How fast can we do this?’”
For example, growers asked researchers whether they still needed to apply the same fertilizer amounts today their fathers used 20 years ago. OSU soil fertility specialist Steve Culman hopped on the case.
“Now [Culman] has this huge database showing that fertility levels are adequate for most of our soils in Ohio, so growers don’t need to spend that extra money,” said Dorrance. “That all came out of questions from growers.”
Overall, Dorrance believes it all comes down to teamwork, building relationships and looking toward the future.
“The future of science is really about teams and putting an infrastructure in place so that teams can readily work together,” said Dorrance. “One of the benefits of the Center is that more of us are working together all the time, juggling to get more data from our plots so we can make the most discoveries from our resources. That’s been a big positive from all this.”