COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio State University soybean breeders have joined forces with researchers from four other universities to help boost research and design ways soybean products can benefit consumers.
The regional collaboration, known as the NorthEast Soy Center, is made up of specialists from Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State, Cornell and Purdue universities. Representatives make up an array of disciplines including genetics, economics, crop production, pathology, entomology, biochemistry, food science and engineering.
"Universities further west have their own research collaboration. So several of us thought it would be a good idea to have some sort of cooperative program geared toward regional groups here," said Steve St. Martin, an Ohio State soybean breeder and steering committee chairman. "We found a pretty good level of enthusiasm, so here we are."
The NorthEast Soy Center was developed late last year. Representatives recently held their second meeting in Wooster at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) to discuss research proposals and Extension activities, and seek funding for new and continuing projects. The goal of the collaboration is to combine research efforts that support the universities' programs and ultimately create products that are useful to farmers and consumers.
"Soybean growers are one of the main customers and we hope to come up with products or services that would benefit them and be applicable to growers in other states, not just Ohio, or Indiana, or Michigan," said St. Martin, who holds a partial OARDC research appointment. "For example, OSU breeders interested in developing food-grade varieties can collaborate with other universities and vice versa, and exchange materials that could be tested to find usable products. By doing so, we may be able to extend research that is not doable by any one state alone."
Representatives are not only interested in raising yields for farmers, but building markets for consumers, and see the multidisciplinary effort as a means for tackling such projects.
"One thing we are interested in is developing public awareness for soy foods. Through collaboration we can develop comprehensive programs that include consumer acceptance, education and nutrition," said St. Martin. "Soybean breeders can develop varieties suitable for the market, while food scientists work on nutrition and entomologists and pathologists work to develop disease- and-insect resistant crops. It's the kind of comprehensive project that is difficult for only one group to develop a quality food product."
Representatives of the NorthEast Soy Center plan to meet every six months and are currently developing a brochure and a website to increase public awareness. For more information on the NorthEast Soy Center, contact St. Martin at (614) 292-8499 or firstname.lastname@example.org.