For many years, Arkansas soybean growers have felt that for soybeans to remain a viable crop and for the industry to grow and be profitable, they needed aggressive research and educational programs, according to Dr. Lanny Ashlock, soybean agronomist for the Cooperative Extension Service, University of Arkansas.
But federal money available for research has dwindled over the last 10 years, and it has become obvious that farmers are going to have to take matters into their own hands if they want research to continue, Ashlock said.
"If growers want research conducted on crops important to them, they simply have to procure the money themselves."
Ashlock said that research is responsible for increasing yields over the years.
"Our statewide average yields have increased at the rate of 16 to 20 pounds a year over the last 30 years. Much of the significant yield increase has occurred in the last 10 years. We're really beginning to see soybean research benefit the industry.
Ashlock credited the research. money collected under a soybean checkoff program for much of the success. The program was in effect in Arkansas several years before it became a nationwide program a few years ago. Under the current national program, growers pay an assessment of 3 cents a bushel when they sell their crops.
The money is collected by the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board, which sends half to the United Soybean Board for research and international promotion of the American soybean crop.
The money that remains goes into research and educational efforts in Arkansas. For the 1995-96 fiscal year, $1.3 million will be spent for in-state efforts.
The Arkansas board members have broken down the in-state money into priority areas. Priority Area I (Improving Soybean Profitability) receives about 70 percent of research funds.
Some of the projects in Area I are: developing cost effective weed management systems, verification, economics of production, soybean production under low-input, nonirrigated conditions, and variety testing for weed resistance.
Priority Area II (Base Programs) includes basic research projects. It receives about 25 percent of the total funds. Among the projects in this area are: developing improved soybean varieties and germplasm, creating new (consumer products, and soybean drought tolerance research.
Priority Area III (New and Innovative Programs) is for projects which are higher risk but hold potential for high returns. About 5 percent of the funds are invested in this area.
All project proposals submitted to the board are carefully reviewed and screened by the board.
"The nine farmers on the state promotion board represent the views of farmers all across Arkansas," Ashlock said. "If farmers have concerns about how the money is being spent, they can contact the board member nearest them."
The United Soybean Board is made up of nearly 50 farmers from across the country. The money they administer is pooled with other money from U.S. farmers to fund international promotion of soybeans, marketing development and regional research projects.
To a non-farmer, 3 cents a bushel may not sound like much of a price to pay, but it is a significant expense for farmers, Ashlock said.
"If a grower harvests 30 bushels per acre over a little more than 1,000 acres, he'll pay about $1,000," Ashlock said.
"The Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board asks for a strict accounting of how farmers' money is being spent. The board sees to it that research projets that will directly benefit growers. Hopefully, Arkansas growers realize that htis is an important investment in their future."