For soybean farmers, 2014 is shaping up to be another solid year as they look to repeat the success they saw in 2013. However, challenges abound, so farmers are again banking on Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board (MSPB)-funded research to boost their yield this year and for years to come.
The MSPB seems willing to give — generously.
Just this month, MSPB announced it was allocating nearly $2.5 million for soybean research in an effort to keep qualified soybean specialists in the field. That figure represents more than 80 percent of the Board’s entire budget.
“MSPB members take great pride in funding a strong soybean research program that will have the maximum effect on the bottom line of Mississippi soybean farmers,” says Jan de Regt, a Hollandale-based soybean farmer who is in his second year of a two-year term as MSPB chairman. “There are many common, recurring issues that farmers face, and we’re helping farmers manage them.”
MSPB isn’t just throwing money at issues, but are looking to fund research into specific problems faced by soybean growers. For instance, funding was earmarked for irrigation research as aquifers decline. Other efforts include disease management and the study of herbicide-resistant weeds such as Palmer amaranth and marestail, which can cause significant yield loss.
The research investment was just the most recent effort by the MSPB, which has been busy of late. Last month, the Board sponsored a series of irrigation meetings to educate farmers about the technology available to decrease irrigation costs and increase efficiency. At the meetings, Mississippi State University Extension Service irrigation specialist Jason Krutz, Ph.D., explained the benefits of using the PHAUCET program and various irrigation instruments, like soil moisture sensors and surge valves. Additionally he shared results from several RISER (Row Crop Irrigation Science Extension and Research) projects.
Last December, the MSPB released a new video highlighting the career opportunities in agriculture to high school students.
“MSPB goes through a process annually to identify problems or needs of the soybean industry in Mississippi,” said Jimmy Sneed, soybean farmer from Hernando and MSPB board member. “One of the most common needs identified by all sectors was the lack of talent and manpower to fill positions in the soybean industry. We hope this video encourages more students to think about careers in agriculture and fill that need both in Mississippi and nationwide.”
In September 2013, MSPB awarded the Blaine Doctoral Fellowship to Tessie Wilkerson, a Ph.D. candidate at Mississippi State University, who plans to study the incidence of charcoal rot in soybeans and possible solutions to the disease.
This year’s research allocation included funding for yet another doctorate fellowship. The new Ed Hester Soybean Doctoral Fellowship was established in memory of the former Benoit soybean farmer and past president of the Mississippi Soybean Association.
“Ed was an innovative producer and supporter of new technology,” says Larry Heatherly, MSPB research and technology transfer coordinator. “I could call him at any time and discuss how we could direct our efforts to solving production problems that soybean farmers faced. I am proud to be associated with the MSPB during the time that they honor his memory.”
MSPB is hoping all of this funding will spur what is looking to be a great year for soybeans. Soybeans will be the state’s major crop with 2.15 million acres. The commodity has had two strong years, averaging a record 45 bushels per acre in 2012 and 2013. Enjoying a strong market last year, prices are even higher going into 2014.
Soybeans continued their reign in 2013 as the state’s biggest row crop, posting an estimated value of $993 million. However, that was off more than 20 percent compared to 2012. And there is some concern about potentially strong crops in Brazil and Argentina that could have a negative impact on the market.
So, MSPB’s role in elevating the soybean industry is only heightened. The Board is made up of 12 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soy checkoff on behalf of all Mississippi soybean farmers. These volunteers work to increase soybean farmer profitability by investing checkoff dollars in ongoing public research and extension programs that address Mississippi production challenges, thereby driving the adoption of best management practices developed through research and ensuring the sustainability of Mississippi soybean production.
The soy checkoff is supported entirely by soybean farmers with individual contributions of 0.5 percent of the market price per bushel sold each season. Fifty percent of contributions collected in Mississippi remain in the state. The Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board invests these funds in research, promotion and education to improve the profitability of soybean production on behalf of all Mississippi producers.
The remaining 50 percent of funds are sent to the national soy checkoff, directed by the United Soybean Board. Composed of 69 volunteer farmer-leaders, USB invests soy checkoff funding to conduct research and drive demand for U.S. soybeans.
For more on the MSPB, visit www.mssoy.org.