Health and Nutrition and the United Soybean Board

By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Field Leader a project of the Ohio Soybean Council and Soybean Check-off

The United Soybean Board (USB) invests soybean check-off dollars to help create new opportunities for increased demand and a better bottom line for U.S. soybean farmers. For every $1 from the check-off that is invested, it returns $12.34 back to the soybean farmer. More than the financial return is the knowledge that is gained to improve efficiency and productivity.

The United Soybean Board is made up of soybean growers from across the country. One of those farmer members is Laurie Isley. Isley is a soybean grower from Michigan and currently serves as chair of the Health and Nutrition Supply Committee. The Health and Nutrition Supply Committee plays a critical role in directing how money is invested in areas such as plant health research and soil health and best management practices. “These three areas have a direct impact on farmers,” said Isley. “Part of the job is conducting the research; the other part is getting the information to the farmers through communications and education.”

Big jobs are made up of several small tasks. “The USB plays the role of portfolio makers,” said Isley. “Before we start a project, we look at the big picture overall, then work that we do to identify if there are any gaps. We rely heavily on farmers and board members to direct us with what they experience daily on their farms such as developing varieties that can handle the adverse weather or problems with SCN. We look at things that impact the farmer, directly on their farm, such as disease or weed resistance or soil health concerns and overall sustainability. We work to find solutions.”

 The overall goal is to invest in growing soybeans to meet the future needs of plant and soil health and nutrition. “We have had several success stories,” said Isley. “We have worked to develop drought resistant soybean varieties that have been used across the country. We have worked on genetics and soybean breeding programs to develop beans that can better resist SCN.  We have done a significant amount of work to measure and implement practices that can lead to better soil health and conservation, and in the end sustainability. That is something on the demand side that our customers want. They are asking about sustainability.”

The USB is working with farmers and working with researchers to determine if the research being done is applicable to the farm and then helping to implement it by giving farmers the data to meet their needs.

“We don’t know what we don’t know,” said Isley. “We really like to work to understand how to use the data that we collect on our farm. We do a lot of comparison testing. It may be fertilizers or pesticides or different varieties of seeds, or planting dates. We are always looking for resources to learn more. It may be from some of the regional organizations that are supported by USB, such as the North Central Soybean Research Program (NCSRP). It may be from the different state research projects. We want to be sure that the research that gets back to the farmer is accurate, practical, and timely.  It also needs to be suited to the growing environment of that farmer in their area of the country.”

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