By DOUG SCHMITZ
ANKENY, Iowa – In a concerted effort to help growers boost soybean productivity through improved data, information and decision tools related to agronomics and conservation, the Iowa Soybean Assoc. (ISA) has announced its launch of the Research Center for Farming Innovation.
Funded in part by the Soybean Checkoff, the center’s goal is to deliver “the very best farmer-led research combining agronomic, conservation and analytics tailored for soybean farmers,” according to ISA officials.
“Our expertise, experience, expansive data sets and farmer-focused approach are unique in providing value to Iowa soybean farmers because of the investment made by Iowa soybean farmers,” said Ed Anderson, ISA senior research director, and executive director of the North Central Soybean Research Program, who will oversee the new center.
Housed in the ISA, the center will integrate and focus on what were once the On-Farm Network, Environmental Programs and Services and Analytics programs to better serve Iowa’s 40,000 soybean growers, Anderson said.
“We decided we had a great opportunity to integrate the two into one,” he told Farm World. “We were the first to do on-farm resolution. The analytics team has really taken all the data from in-field resolution to build robust models for managing risk and making good management decisions.
“We wanted to help farmers find agronomic solutions for their bottom lines and productivity, and to move to the next level,” he said, adding, “there really isn’t anyone doing this in one coordinated effort. “We’re uniquely positioned to deliver innovative and transformational research, tools and technical assistance that can only be found at the center.”
In addition to more comprehensively serving soybean producers, the center also:
· Leverages soybean checkoff investments with additional non-checkoff sources
· Strengthens partner relationships with Iowa State University (ISU)’s Soybean Research Center and the Iowa Nutrient Research Center
· Collaborates with other farm and commodity organizations, state and local agencies and companies engaged in seed, crop protection, precision and digital agriculture
· Broadly accelerates farming advances for profitability and sustainability
Tim Bardole, ISA president and Rippey, Iowa, farmer, said the ISA’s new approach to production and conservation research brings greater value by tailoring data for the unique geographic and agronomic settings of each operation.
“There’s never a one-size-fits-all approach,” he said. “Each farm has unique circumstances that require an individualized plan of action. We are positioned to deliver insights and recommendations for agronomy, conservation, natural resource management, engineering and data analytics for the individual farmer.”
Anderson said, overall, the center is poised to assist farmers considering big picture operational decisions for short- and long-term profitability with a suite of research and decision-making tools. Moreover, ISA researchers help farmers take a programmatic approach to continuously improve their overall operations with an eye on maximizing economic returns.
He added this holistic approach to soybean research is about developing systems and practices that are more profitable, resilient and sustainable.
“We’re excited about the future, and enabling farmers to thrive, despite the challenges and uncertainties that accompany every growing season,” he said.
He added the center has already planned a lot of farmer group meetings.
“We want to gather them together and ask for their input,” he said. “We’ll look at podcasts videos, and webinars.”
He said the ISA hosts one to four interns during the summer and will invite them to apply to work in the center, focusing on their individual career interests in farming innovation.
“We partner very closely with Iowa State University,” he said. “Internships will be with the Iowa Soybean Research Center, and Iowa Nutrient Research Center.”
In addition, Anderson said the center will leverage checkoff dollars with non-checkoff dollars.
“Our current funding is about a 2-to-1 ratio,” he said. “We’d like to ramp that up to (a 5-to-1 ratio). We’ll be pursuing grants at the federal level, and we’ll be pursuing foundations (for additional support).
“We work with and on behalf of farmers,” he added. “The first focus is on Iowa soybean farmers. We listen to them and engage with them first and foremost. Engagement, outreach and communication will be critical.”