Soybean research helps solve today’s problems, train tomorrow’s leaders

Linda Benedict, Russin, John  |  7/19/2011 11:21:55 PM

(Editor’s Note: John Russin, formerly the associate vice chancellor, was named the vice chancellor for research at the LSU AgCenter and director of the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station on June 24, 2011.)

Soybean is one of the many commodities that comprise the rich mosaic that is Louisiana agriculture. Its benefits to row crop production have long been known, including its ability to enrich our soil through nitrogen fixation and to serve as an attractive, profitable rotation crop.

Louisiana’s semitropical climate, occasional hurricanes, crop rotation practices and wide array of pests are among the many factors that make soybean production in our state, indeed across much of the Gulf South, a challenge. But that challenge provides opportunity for LSU AgCenter scientists to develop into the most problem-focused, well-rounded and grower-engaged professionals around. Not only must they become expert in constraints that affect soybean, but they must also understand these constraints as they impact crops grown in rotation. This requires practical familiarity with agronomic practices, inputs and infrastructure for an array of crops. Consequently, our scientists develop skills and expertise far beyond the original arena in which they were hired, which in turn makes them far more valuable members of our crop production team.

At no time are these skills and expertise more valuable than when new pests emerge. LSU AgCenter soybean scientists are at the vanguard of emerging pest issues in the United States. One need only consider the recent threats posed by Asian soybean rust and redbanded stinkbug to understand the critical need to first identify and then meet such problems head-on. These emerging issues also provide a hidden benefit in that the rest of the nation, indeed the world, can see and appreciate the teamwork, responsiveness and resourcefulness of our AgCenter scientists.

We are aided greatly by a well-engaged stakeholder group, the Louisiana Soybean and Grain Research and Promotion Board. This appointed board administers the soybean checkoff funds in our state, which provide for an effective partnership between producers and scientists. Not only does this board support applied soybean research, but they also ensure clear communication such that AgCenter professionals understand and address the most pressing needs. In this way, the Soybean and Grain Board serves effectively in an advisory capacity by providing funding to programs that have the greatest relevance and show greatest potential for success. This desirable arrangement helps build into our faculty the problem-solving mindset that has long been our AgCenter hallmark.

Soybean research provides information support to Louisiana’s crop consultants. These business professionals, many of whom received their education and training with AgCenter faculty, rely heavily on AgCenter research for the latest in crop and pest management information. Such a positive relationship has allowed this essential niche industry to thrive in Louisiana while being absent in some states with substantially greater soybean acreage.

Yet another benefit of soybean research in Louisiana is the opportunity to train the next generation of scientists. Our AgCenter professionals have demonstrated excellence throughout their careers, and they labor to instill that excellence in graduate students who pursue advanced degrees under their direction. As world population grows and living standards increase, we must provide the trained professionals needed to meet projected demands for food, feed and fiber.

The LSU AgCenter is proud of its reputation in solving today’s problems and training tomorrow’s leaders, and we are dedicated to making Louisiana agriculture financially profitable, environmentally sustainable, and socially responsible.

John Russin

(This article was published in the sping issue of Louisiana Agriculture Magazine.)

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