College of ACES
College News

USAID’s Soybean Innovation Lab taps top individuals for advisory board

Published May 28, 2015

Urbana, Ill. – The Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign provides researchers, extension personnel, the private sector, NGOs, and funders operating across the entire value chain the critical information needed for successful soybean development and scaling.

 “A vital component of the SIL multidisciplinary and multi-institutional team involves our advisory board, as they ensure that our efforts are strategic, efficacious, and appropriately implemented,” said the program’s principal investigator Peter Goldsmith. “We are fortunate to be able to draw on their rich experience in international development – humanitarian, government, and private sector – to provide insight, guidance, and expertise to the United States and African researchers involved in the program.”

Current SIL advisory board members are: 

  • Eberson Calvo, Chief Executive Officer, Tropical Improvement and Genetics
  • Ken Dashiell, Deputy Director, General for Partnerships and Capacity Building, International Institute for Tropical Agriculture
  • Brady Deaton, Former Chancellor, University of Missouri
  • Robert Easter, Former President, University of Illinois
  • Daniel Gustafson, Deputy Director, Operations, Food and Agricultural Organization
  • Mark Keenum, President, Mississippi State University
  • Earl Kellogg, Senior Fellow, Association of Public and Land Grant Universities
  • Marc Linit, Associate Dean for Research and Extension, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, University of Missouri
  • Paul Rose, Owner, Sossi Company, Kenya
  • Abdulai Salifu, Director General, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Ghana

The U.S. Agency for International Development created the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Soybean Value Chain Research at the U of I. The program spans five years and is implementing efforts in Ghana, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Zambia, and Malawi. 

Recognizing that soybean is a commercial, non-staple and non-native crop, the lab’s research and capacity building delves into issues facing the entire value chain of soybean production in the tropics. The scope of the project includes: plant breeding, varietal testing, agronomics, environmental impact, input acquisition and application, seed supply-chain management, the socioeconomics of small and medium holders, gender roles as they relate to soybean production and marketing, and livestock and human utilization.

For more information, visit or @TropicalSoyLab on Twitter. 






International Agronomy Day

8:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Crop Sciences Research and Education Center (South Farms)

International Agronomy Day will take place on Monday, August 31, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the U of I South Farms, allowing participants time to continue on to Decatur, IL for the 2015 Farm Progress Show held September 1, 2 and 3.

For more information and to register, visit:

Every day is different,one day I may be planting, spraying, note taking, or harvesting in Tennessee, and in the next several hours I could be doing the same thing in Michigan. I meet a lot of people covering seven states, so every day is a new learning experience.
Crop Sciences
Lincoln, Illinois

Dan Fulton, an alum of the Department of Crop Sciences, enjoys the versatility that his job offers. He says every day has new opportunities for learning and growing because he works in seven different states with a multitude of people. “Every day is different,” Dan says. “One day I may be planting, spraying, note taking, or harvesting in Tennessee, and in the next several hours I could be doing the same thing in Michigan. I meet a lot of people covering seven states, so every day is a new learning experience.” The most important skill developed through his University of Illinois experience, Dan says, is the ability to multitask. Meeting deadlines all four years of school, whether it was homework, group projects, club meetings, or his part-time job, helped him adapt to his career lifestyle for success. “I’d like to think that I’ve very capable of adapting to ‘bumps in the road,’ ” Dan says. “I may have a piece of machinery break down, a co-worker get sick, a grower not be ready, and the always prevalent chance of rain. I have to be able to get all my sites planted, sprayed, and harvested in a small window of time, with many miles in between. These challenges mixed with new life changes of keeping my growers, boss, Monsanto employees, and family satisfied keep me on my toes. The U of I really helped me understand how to multitask in an efficient, safe, and desirable manner.” Dan kept busy during college with Field and Furrow, Rodeo Club, Horticulture Club, and Illini Pickers, a start-up registered student organization begun with his brother. He was also active in Nabor House fraternity. His internship at the college’s integrated pest management farms helped guide him to his concentration in crop sciences—integrated pest management—and was supplemented by an internship with Dow Agrosciences studying corn rootworm and other corn pests the following summer. “There is something on the U of I campus for any student,” Dan says. “Whether it is crops, robotics, art, etc., if you are bored on this campus it’s because you’re actively trying not to find something to do.”

Monitoring soybean consumption and production prospects

Published May 26, 2015

URBANA, Ill. – The projected U.S. supply and consumption balance sheet for the 2014-15 soybean marketing year has changed considerably since last fall. The USDA’s May 2015 balance sheet, for example, indicates that the supply of soybeans was 33 million bushels larger than projected in September 2014. Consumption is expected to exceed the September projection by 158 million bushels, and year-ending stocks are expected to be 125 million bushels less than projected in September.

According to University of Illinois agricultural economist Darrel Good, the marketing-year average price received by producers, however, is currently expected to be very near the mid-point of the range of prices projected by the USDA in September.

“With the 2014-15 marketing year entering the final quarter, the pace of consumption will have some influence on prices even though the primary focus will be on the prospective size of the 2015 crop,” Good said. “The USDA currently projects that the domestic soybean crush during the current marketing year will reach 1.805 billion bushels, near the record-large crush of 2006-07 and 2007-08. The projection is 4.1 percent higher than the crush during the previous marketing year. Estimates from the National Oilseed Processors Association (NOPA) indicate that crush by its members during the first eight months of the current year exceeded that of last year by 2.6 percent.

“The year-over-year increase has accelerated as the year progresses,” Good said. “Crush during the most recent four months (January to April 2015) exceeded that of a year ago by 6.5 percent, and the April 2015 crush was 13.3 percent larger than the crush during April 2014. To reach the USDA projection, the crush during the last four months of the marketing year needs to exceed that of a year earlier by 7.7 percent.”

The NOPA crush estimate for May is scheduled for release on June 15.

Good said the USDA projects that U.S. soybean exports during the current marketing year will reach a record 1.8 billion bushels, 9.3 percent more than the previous record of last year. With about 14.6 weeks remaining in the marketing year, cumulative USDA export inspection estimates have reached 1.722 billion bushels. For the first seven months of the marketing year, export inspections tracked Census Bureau export estimates very closely. To reach 1.8 billion bushels for the year, exports during the final weeks need to total about 78 million bushels, or about 5.35 million bushels per week. For the five weeks that ended May 21, export inspections averaged 10.1 million bushels per week.

“Unshipped export sales as of May 14 were reported at 132 million bushels,” Good said. “Some of those sales will be rolled into the next marketing year, or canceled altogether, but it appears that exports will easily reach the USDA projection.” 

While the pace of the domestic crush and exports appear to be on pace to reach the USDA projections, Good said that the magnitude of year-ending stocks will not be known until the release of the USDA September Grain Stocks report on Sept. 30. Historically, the estimate of Sept. 1 stocks of old-crop soybeans in that report has provided some surprises, resulting in revisions in the estimated size of the previous year’s harvest.

“Until very recently, few concerns have been expressed about the 2015 soybean production season,” Good said. “Planting has proceeded at a pace that exceeds the previous five-year average pace, and expectations have been for acreage to exceed intentions reported in the USDA’s March Prospective Plantings report. The recent weather pattern, however, has generated a few issues. In particular, the area of extreme rainfall amounts in Texas and Oklahoma that extends into southern Kansas and parts of Arkansas have raised a few concerns about the timeliness of planting and the potential for some prevented planting. The focus is on Kansas due to the combination of the slow pace of planting (17 percent as of May 17) and the magnitude of soybean acreage (3.8 million) intended to be planted in that state,” he said.

According to Good, for the United States as a whole, there is some measurable yield loss as the percentage of the crop planted after May 30 increases. From 1986 through 2014, the percentage of the crop planted after May 30 has ranged from 9 percent (2012) to 66 percent (1995) and averaged 34 percent. With 45 percent of the crop reported planted as of May 17, the percentage of the U.S. crop planted after May 30 this year will not likely exceed the average of the previous 29 years due to the rapid pace of planting in northern growing areas. The impact, if any, of extreme wetness on the magnitude of planted acreage of soybeans should be revealed in the USDA’s June 30 Acreage report.

“Less noticed has been the recent dry pattern in the eastern Corn Belt, including eastern Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and much of the Southeast,” Good said. “If the National Weather Service forecast for the next week materializes, however, timely rainfall will be received in much of that area. 

“While there are some issues surrounding 2015 U.S. soybean production prospects, it is too early for the market to reflect much concern,” Good said. “With current expectations of a growing surplus during the 2015-16 marketing year, threatening summer weather conditions will likely be required to generate higher prices.”


Study uses farm data to aid in slowing evolution of herbicide-resistant weeds

Published May 20, 2015

URBANA, Ill. – The widespread evolution of herbicide-resistant weeds is costing farmers, especially through decreases in productivity and profitability. Although researchers and industry personnel have made recommendations to slow this evolution, an understanding of the patterns and causes of the resistance has been limited.

Diversifying the herbicide mechanisms of action (MOAs) has been recommended to stop the spread of herbicide-resistant weeds. MOAs refer to the biochemical interaction that affects or disrupts the target site in the weed. Two common methods of diversifying MOAs involve rotating herbicides—from season to season or within the same season—or by using a mix of herbicides in the same tank. The question has been which of these methods is the most effective.

A recently published study by weed scientists at the University of Illinois and USDA-ARS, looking at glyphosate-resistant waterhemp, is providing valuable evidence that points to management practices as the driving force behind herbicide resistance, and that herbicide mixing, as opposed to herbicide rotation, is the most effective tool in managing resistance.

Pat Tranel, a U of I weed scientist and a co-author on the study, said this is not the first time researchers have presented evidence that herbicide rotation is not the best resistance management strategy. “This paper is valuable because these conclusions were obtained doing our experiment in a more ‘real-life’ fashion,” Tranel said. “This study confirmed previous conclusions that farmers should use herbicide mixing rather than rotation.”

During the study, the researchers evaluated glyphosate-resistance incidences, as well as landscape, soil, weed, and farm-management data from 105 central Illinois grain farms, including almost 500 site-years of herbicide application records. Having this data, collected between 2004 and 2010, helped the researchers identify relationships between past herbicide use and current glyphosate-resistance occurrences. 

Tranel said when glyphosate-resistant waterhemp was first reported in Illinois in 2006, researchers working at the site saw some fields that were infested with waterhemp, but adjacent fields that were free of the weed.

“We asked, ‘what is different between these two fields? Is it what the farmers are doing?’ We asked a retail applicator to let us review all the management practices data from 100 fields—50 that have resistant waterhemp and 50 that don’t,” Tranel said.

“We took the results of what farmers have already done, and asked what is different in the fields that have resistance versus the ones that don’t,” he added.

After collecting the management data, sampling waterhemp from the fields, and screening seeds from the field for resistance back in their greenhouses, the researchers analyzed that data for management factors most associated with resistance. Overall the researchers examined 66 variables related to environment, soil, landscape, weed community, and weed management.

“We looked at every factor we could think of in terms of management and landscape,” Tranel said. “We found that it was management factors that are the most important. It doesn’t matter whether you’re next to a water course that might bring in new seed, what the waterhemp density of your field is, etc. It’s what you did in your field that matters.

“That’s what’s encouraging,” he added. “It’s not inevitable that if your field is next to a water course, for example, you will have resistance.”

Aaron Hager, a U of I weed scientist and co-author on the study, explained that the occurrence of glyphosate-resistant waterhemp was greatest in fields where glyphosate had been used in over 75 percent of the seasons included in the analysis, where fewer MOAs were used each year, and where herbicide rotation occurred annually. “Simply rotating herbicide MOAs actually increased the frequency of resistance,” he said.

On the other hand, Tranel said that the farmers who were using multiple herbicides per application were least likely to have resistance. “When using an average of 2.5 MOAs per application, you are 83 times less likely to have resistance compared to if you used only 1.5 MOAs per application,” he explained.

“That’s pretty amazing that adding one additional mode of action in your tank reduces your chances of resistance by that much,” Tranel added.

Hager pointed out that this strategy will work only if each component of the tank mixture is effective against the target species. “Effective, long-term weed management will require even more diverse management practices,” he added.

Another piece of good news for farmers is that the researchers did not find an association of proximity between neighboring fields and resistance. “The good thing is not only does management matter, it’s what you do in your own field that matters. Even if a neighbor’s resistance moves, it’s at a small frequency. If you’re doing the right thing it will stay at a small frequency,” Tranel said.

Although there may be some concerns with herbicide mixing, Tranel said it is still the best tool to manage resistance. One concern is the greater expense and environmental load of using multiple herbicides.

Another concern is using the correct mix of herbicides in the tank. Particularly as waterhemp becomes resistant to other herbicides, such as PPO inhibitors, mixing glyphosate and a PPO inhibitor, is not going to be a good management strategy if there is already resistance to a PPO inhibitor, Tranel explained. 

“As we have new tools coming like 2,4-D and dicamba-tolerant soybeans, some people may think ‘I’ll throw in 2,4-D with glyphosate, because that’s using two modes of actions,’ but if you already have glyphosate resistance then you are not really using two effective modes of action,” he added.

“We don’t say that mixing is the end-all solution. What we saw from this study if success for farmers is measured by lack of resistance or lower frequency, then successful farmers use multiple herbicides per application.”

“Managing the evolution of herbicide resistance” was recently published in Pest Management Science and is available online at

Co-authors of the study include Jeffrey A. Evans, Patrick J. Tranel, Aaron G. Hager, Brian Schutte, Chenxi Wu, Laura A. Chatham, and Adam S. Davis.

Funding for the study was provided by USDA-NIFA, USDA-ARS, Monsanto Co., and the Illinois Soybean Association and Soybean Checkoff. 

Tranel and Davis will be presenting findings from the study, as well as ongoing research, at the U of I Department of Crop Sciences’ annual Agronomy Day on Aug. 20 on the main U of I campus in Urbana, Ill. Visit for more information.

News Source:

Pat Tranel, 217-333-1531