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How research in Chile advances Minnesota's crop

Mon, Feb 15th, 2010
Posted in Agriculture

Minnesota Soybean growers inspect research plots at the University of Minnesota’s winter soybean nursery research station at the Chilean Institute of Agricultural Research (INIA) at La Platina in Santiago, Chile.

Minnesota soybean farmers provided more than $1.5 million from their own pockets in 2009 to help fund research to improve yields and quality of the state's soybean crop. The University of Minnesota is the primary recipient of this farmer-funded research support, so a contingent of soybean farmers from across the state recently conducted a fact-finding trip to the University's "winter nursery" in Santiago, Chile.

"The University uses its research station in Chile to keep its soybean breeding and research going year round," says Eric Thorn, a soybean farmer from Chatfield, Minn. "This winter their Chile nursery is growing next generation plants from the breeding they did last summer up here in Minnesota. This year-round breeding helps get the new varieties to Minnesota farmers faster."

"The new soybean varieties are being bred to resist the diseases, insects and weather conditions that can reduce yields and compromise the quality of Minnesota soybeans," Thorn said.

He is a participant in the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council's See for Yourself program, through which soybean farmers visit various locations where soybean checkoff funds are supporting initiatives to make the Minnesota soybean industry more competitive worldwide.

"Soybean farmers are investing our own money in the checkoff, so we like to see how our investment is paying off," Thorn said. "This See for Yourself program allows us to observe firsthand how our soybean checkoff investment is helping Minnesota farmers grow more and better soybeans that meet the requirements of our customers here in the U.S. and around the world."

The soybean checkoff is a federally mandated program meant to increase farmer profitability by driving demand for soybeans. Each time a farmer sells soybeans, one-half of one-percent of the market price is collected from the sale. Half of those dollars remain in Minnesota for state-specific projects. The other half is sent to the United Soybean Board to be used for national and international programs.

"Even though Minnesota is the third largest soybean-producing state in the country, our climate and growing conditions present unique challenges for farmers," said James Orf, University of Minnesota professor of agronomy and plant genetics.

Dr. Orf hosted the visiting farmers on a tour of the University of Minnesota's winter soybean nursery research station at the Chilean Institute of Agricultural Research (INIA) at La Platina in Santiago.

Thorn said his experience in Chile showed him the value of the check-off supported counter-season research and breeding programs in Chile. "With two growing seasons, the research on soybean cyst nematode resistance has come a long way in a short period of time," said Thorn. "We have a problem with white mold in Minnesota, but with this research we hope to have it under control soon, too."

Thorn said he is looking forward to sharing what he learned about the checkoff-funded research in Chile with other soybean growers in Minnesota. "My neighbors will be glad to know that the money we are giving to the University of Minnesota is going toward good sound research," said Thorn. "We've invested in breakthrough research that is helping not only Minnesota growers, but farmers everywhere who produce soybeans."

In addition to the Chile trip, Minnesota farmers are participating in two other See for Yourself events this winter. These include a close up look at checkoff initiatives to advance the biodiesel industry and international marketing of U.S. soybeans, currently Minnesota's number one agricultural export.

Last year in Minnesota, farmers invested some $5 million in research, education, and domestic and international marketing initiatives to support the long-term advancement of profitable and environmentally sustainable soybean production in the state.

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