Economic analysis shows how ISU soybean trials drive value for farmers • News Service • Iowa State University

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This aerial photo shows a crop damaged by soybean cyst nematodes, microscopic roundworms that feed on the roots of soybeans. Field trials conducted by Iowa State University provide farmers with valuable data on the performance of various soybean varieties with genetic resistance to pests. Image courtesy of Gregory Tylka. Bigger picture.

AMES, Iowa – Field trials by Iowa State University scientists have saved farmers and seed companies millions of dollars by helping them breed resistant soybean varieties, according to a new economic analysis. to a major pest.

The analysis was led by GianCarlo Moschini, Pioneer Chair in Science and Technology Policy in the UIS Department of Economics. The report found that Iowa State University’s CNS-resistant soybean variety trials created a surplus of approximately $140 million in Iowa and Illinois between 2011 and 2016. The analysis estimates that the farmers captured about a third of this surplus while seed companies held the rest.

The soybean cyst nematode, a microscopic roundworm that feeds on the roots of soybeans, is the greatest pathogenic threat to soybean yields in the United States. Previous estimates showed the pests present in up to 70% of Iowa fields. Plant breeders have developed soybean varieties with genetic resistance to pests, but the level of resistance and performance of these varieties can vary widely. So, ISU scientists, supported by soybean levy funds from the Iowa Soybean Association, have conducted field trials every year since 1997 to evaluate hundreds of resistant soybean varieties. Annual results reports are published online at isuscntrials.info, and copies of the publications are printed and distributed directly to 70,000 to 90,000 households in Iowa and northern Illinois each year.

The economic analysis relied on data generated from the field trials as well as a proprietary data set of farmers’ seed choices. This dataset included the quantity and price paid for seed of specific soybean varieties. Using economic models, Moschini and PhD student Seungki Lee determined the extent to which farmers are willing to pay a premium for resistant soybean varieties compared to susceptible varieties.

“Our study essentially matched the data produced by the trials over the period of 2011 to 2016 with data on the specific use of soybean varieties by farmers during the same period,” Moschini said.

The analysis revealed that farmers were willing to pay an additional $0.75 per acre for seed of resistant varieties included in the field trials. Farmers also paid $1.36 more per acre for seed of SCN-resistant soybean varieties that performed above the median yield in the ISU experiments.

The results indicate that farmers used field trial data to inform their decisions about which seeds to plant, said Gregory Tylka, acting associate director of plant pathology and microbiology who leads the field trials.

“Some farmers think all resistant varieties are created equal, but that’s not the case, that’s why we’re doing the assessment,” Tylka said. “The analysis shows the value of our research as a whole, but also that farmers value varieties that do well in yield tests.”

The full economic analysis, which was not funded by soy levy funds, is available on the UIS Center for Agricultural and Rural Development website.

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