Minnesota soybean farmers learn about research, water quality issues
By Heather Thorstensen
Date Modified: 03/03/2011 10:11 AM
Minnesota farmers visited the University of Minnesota and the East Coast Feb. 14-17 to see how their soybean checkoff funds are spent on research. They also went to learn how the Environmental Protection Agency's water quality plans for the Chesapeake Bay are affecting that area's agriculture industry.
Nineteen people participated on Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council's See For Yourself mission trip.
Dean of University of Minnesota's College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences Allen Levine assured the farmers their checkoff funds are important to their research efforts. He also addressed how budget cuts and payroll commitments to tenured staff present challenges of replacing soybean scientists who have left the university. The group heard about soybean breeding research from soybean breeder Jim Orf. Professor Satish Gupta discussed results of a study on increased sediment in Lake Pepin, whichfound sediment production hasn't changed much over time, but sediment transport has dramatically increased. Agriculture is part of the cause of sediment to the lake, but most of it comes from river banks and natural factors, he said.
After flying to North Carolina, the group met with representatives from Bayer CropScience, who discussed thecompany's philosophy and products, including their LibertyLink soybeans. At Syngenta Biotechnology, Inc. in Research Triangle Park, the Minnesotans learned about products in the pipeline as well as precision breeding and transgenic breeding methods. They toured Syngenta's laboratories and the greenhouse.
Scientists from North Carolina State University andUSDA-Agricultural Research Service gave updates about United Soybean Board-funded research during a stop at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.These projects ranged from altering soybean oil content to genetic analysis and breeding of a type of Swedish soybean that is resistant to environmental stresses.
At University of Maryland's Wye Research and Education Center in Queenstown, Md., they heard from the state's farmers, farm group and state agency representatives and a faculty member about the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to reduce the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment entering the Chesapeake Bay.
In Washington, D.C., the Environmental Protection Agency's agricultural counselor Larry Elworth addressed the Chesapeake Bay plan.American Farm Bureau Federation staff members spoke about their lawsuit against EPA for their actions in the Bay as well as pending free trade agreements and policies regarding biotechnology. The group also met David White, chief of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, and James Webster of Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc. Webster discussed his views about the nation's capitol as they relate to agriculture and policy.