The Illinois Soybean Association board of directors recently approved three soybean research projects to be conducted at the Western Illinois University agricultural farm near Macomb. The goal of the production research, which is funded by the soybean checkoff, is to help Illinois soybean farmers explore new management options and enhance production profitability.
Using pennycress in crop rotations, evaluating beneficial fungi as a soybean germination tool, and assessing precision-planted cover crops all have great potential to help the state's soybean farmers, says Ross Prough, soybean farmer from Greenfield, and ISA vice chair for yield.
"Illinois soybean farmers recognize the value of research to stay competitive in a global marketplace," says Prough. "Our four state research colleges provide farmers applicable information for their local growing conditions. These projects at WIU, and other checkoff research underway this season, allow for continued industry success."
Among the approved research projects is the continuation of a multi-year study looking at pennycress as a rotation alternative for corn and soybeans. Research finds incorporating pennycress and similar rotation crops helps reduce disease incidence, fights pest resistance and aids soybeans in uptake of water and other nutrients. Previous data show that pennycress rotations provide a slight increase in soybeans yields, especially for early planted beans, and do not negatively affect oil and protein levels. The new research will examine two-year rotation programs across four slightly different corn-soybean cropping systems.
Other WIU researchers are looking at how beneficial fungi, Phialocephala fortinii, help plants use water and nutrients more effectively, following previous observations that P. fortinii increase soybean germination rates and cause dramatic and rapid growth during germination. The research seeks to quantify germination and growth advantages and also will use gene mapping techniques to identify additional benefits, such as resistance to soybean pests. Ultimately, researchers hope to help reduce fertilizer use and other crop inputs while increasing yields.
The third project aims to increase soybean yields by using precision cover cropping ahead of soybeans. Researchers will precision plant no-till soybeans directly over winter-killed radish. This raises in-row soil temperature and increases in-row soil fertility, leading to improved root growth and higher yield potential. The trial also will explore between-row cereal rye, which also may enhance yields by suppressing weeds and retaining soil moisture, and supplemental nitrogen applications to measure any additional crop and soil improvements.
"Illinois soybean farmers understand traditional cover cropping strategies for reducing erosion, and many already use GPS technology," says Bill Bailey, WIU Department of Agriculture director. "We encourage growers to adopt the combination of these two systems. Farmers interested in learning more are encouraged to contact WIU."