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Iowa Soybean Research Center

in collaboration with the Iowa Soybean Association

Connecting Researchers to Farmers

ISU research groups visits Syngenta's Seed Center in MN.
SHARING KNOWLEDGE: When researchers from private industry and universities keep in touch, they learn from each other, which helps Iowa’s farmers and economy.

Iowa Soybean Research Center tours engage faculty, students and others in a unique learning experience.

Kara Berg | Nov 06, 2019

Two or three times each year the Iowa Soybean Research Center at Iowa State University hosts what it refes to as “field tours” for students and researchers at Iowa State. The tours let researchers see agriculture-related operations firsthand, ask questions, and make connections with those involved in farming and the ag industry.

Recently, ISRC along and ISU’s Seed Science Center co-sponsored a tour to the Syngenta Seedcare Institute in Stanton, Minn., with 22 SU researchers, students and staff.

At the Seedcare Institute, ISU researchers learned how seed treatment formulas and applications are created and tested. The institute’s research includes corn and soybean planters adapted to test how best to apply various treatments to seeds for use in diverse climates such as the Upper Midwest vs. the Deep South.

Making farmer connections

“The field tours are a hit with the scientists as well as the farmers and agribusinesses we visit; everyone learns something,” says Greg Tylka, ISRC director and professor of plant pathology and microbiology at ISU.

“It’s not uncommon for some of Iowa State’s researchers and grad students to be from other states or countries, and haven’t had the opportunity to visit an Iowa farm or business that supports farming firsthand,” he says. “We want to ensure that the laboratory-to-farm connection with Iowa State research is acknowledged and reinforced.”

Yuba Kandel (left), Iliana Castillo-Machuca, Sarah Kurtz and Monica Pennewitt tour the facility.
HARD HATS: Touring the Syngenta seed research facility recently were Yuba Kandel (left), Iliana Castillo-Machuca, Sarah Kurtz and Monica Pennewitt — representing ISU faculty, students and staff.

“As a graduate student, it can be very difficult to find opportunities beyond what we learn in the classroom and through our research,” says Monica Pennewitt, a grad student in plant pathology and microbiology at ISU. “But the ISRC does a tremendous job at helping to bridge the gap between academia, industry and agricultural stakeholders. During our visit to Syngenta Seedcare, we toured their state-of-the-art facilities, interacted with top-tier researchers, broadened our knowledge of their work to improve seed care, gained awareness of potential career opportunities and saw how practical applications of research can truly have such an immense impact on modern agriculture.”

Educating tomorrow’s researchers

Gary Munkvold, an ISU professor of plant pathology and microbiology, and several students from his graduate level seed pathology class participated in the tour. “I was happy the ISRC was willing to coordinate the trip with my class schedule so the students could see firsthand how classroom information is applied in the real world,” says Munkvold. Susana Goggi, a professor in agronomy and seed science, also had several students on the trip. “Public and private sector partnerships, such as those formed during this visit, are essential for enhancing the education of the soybean scientists and technical personnel of tomorrow,” she says.

Yuba Kandel, associate scientist in plant pathology and microbiology at ISU has taken a couple of ISRC field tours. “I learn something new every time,” says Kandel. “It’s a great opportunity for ISU soybean researchers and grad students to get out of their lab or classroom and get connected to Iowa farms and ag business. It provides opportunities to learn about real-world problems and application of advanced technologies in agriculture. You can see how different pieces of knowledge learned in a classroom come together to solve a problem when you visit a place like the Seedcare Institute.”

Working together for soy profitability

Kandel also attended ISRC’s summer tour, in which 18 scientists visited Robb and Jennifer Ewoldt’s family farm near Davenport, Iowa. The Ewoldts raise soybeans, corn, cattle and hogs. This provided a venue in which researchers could experience a taste of farm life and ask questions.

The group later stopped at the Bayer Learning Center near Huxley, providing an interactive tour of the history and progression of seed science, data science and precision equipment.

“It’s all about engaging, collaborating and making those important connections between all the people and entities involved whose goal is to advance soybean productivity and protection, as well as farmer profitability,” Tylka says. “We are happy to be just one small but important piece of that equation.”

Berg is communications specialist for the Iowa Soybean Research Center at Iowa State University.