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Kansas Soybean Expo features research update

By Doug Rich

Researchers from Kansas State University gave a soybean research update at the Kansas Soybean Expo Jan. 8 in Topeka, Kan. This year the update included information on the use of remote sensing in soybean variety development, nutrients for soybean production, and new uses for soybeans.

Bill Schapaugh, professor of soybean breeding and genetics at K-State, explained how he is using remote sensing to study the physiological and spectral parameters in soybeans associated with seed yield. Schapaugh said researchers began the project a few years ago to see if they could use remote sensing to characterize the performance of soybean varieties out in the field. Their focus was on yield but they were interested in disease resistance, as well.

“If we could do this it would augment the work that we already do in terms of agronomic production,” Schapaugh said. “If we could do this accurately enough it would greatly enhance the type of material that our soybean breeding program could produce.”

Schapaugh said researchers looked at chlorophyll content in leafs, canopy temperature during the growing season, the reflectance or energy coming off the soybean plants. In his presentation at the Kansas Soybean Expo, Schapaugh detailed the information researchers collected on spectral reflectance.

Reflectance data can tell researchers about dry matter accumulation, overall plant health, nutrient status, and disease susceptibility. Schapaugh said they wanted to see if spectral reflectance could tell them if one variety was going to yield better than another variety for whatever reason and then apply that over thousands of research plots.

What they found is that the actual yield value they predicted is not too accurate. The predicted yield can be way high or way low.

“This may not be a good thing but from a breeding perspective we really want to know the overall performance, which ones are higher and which ones are lower,” Schapaugh said. “Our predicted yields explained quite a bit of the variation we are seeing in actual yields.

“Each year we have done this we have learned something and we are making good progress,” Schapaugh said.

David Mengel, professor of soil fertility and nutrient management at K-State, presented information on sulfur and micronutrient fertilization of soybeans and foliar fertilization. This research project has been ongoing for three years. Mengel said researchers used traditional small plot research compiled on farmers’ fields at six locations in 2012 and seven locations in 2013. Mengel talked primarily about the potential for response to soybeans for sulfur, zinc, manganese, iron and boron as well as foliar fertilization.

The study compared phosphorus plus sulfur, phosphorus plus sulfur plus micronutrients, and foliar fertilization with phosphorus.

There was only one location last year where the sulfur or micronutrient treatments had any effect on plant growth and it was negative. Mengel said the addition of micronutrients to the fertilizer program actually reduced early season growth in this plot.

“I am not sure I would add a lot of micronutrients unless I had a strong indication that they were needed,” Mengel said.

There was not much response to foliar application of these products in their test, Mengel said. Unless there is a severe deficiency of a specific element, there is very little response to foliar application. In those cases it is nearly impossible to get enough product on with a single foliar application, Mengel said.

In conclusion Mengel said sulfur, zinc, iron, manganese and boron applications had little impact on early season growth or yield with the exception of a couple of locations where they had significant yield decreases and two others where they had trends for yield decreases from the addition of the micronutrient package. Foliar application of this fertilizer package also had no positive impact on plant growth or yield.

Mengel is looking for additional sites with low phosphorus soil test results to repeat this study. Anyone interested in having a test on his or her farm should contact Mengel at his office on the K-State campus. Mengel can be reached by phone 785-532-2166 or by email at

Once the soybeans are grown they need to be converted to consumer products. Xiuzhi Susan Sun, distinguished professor of grain science and industry at K-State, discussed the science behind the development of new uses for soybeans.

“My work is to get the protein out of the soybean as well as the fiber and oil and make them into intermediate chemicals,” Sun said. “Those chemicals are the building blocks for new products.”

Sun is currently looking at the thermal and transparent properties of PSA from epoxidized and dihydroxyl soybean oil. The potential applications for DSO are transparent tapes, films, and formulations with other ingredients. One specific application would be pressure sensitive adhesives.

To develop sensitive adhesives Sun said they must consider adhesion versus cohesion. Her team looks at a variety of factors including peel strength, tack strength, and shear strength.

Sun said there are potential new applications for commercial grease, lubricants, and bio wax. The market for these products is potentially huge, Sun said.

Doug Rich can be reached by phone at 785-749-5304 or by email at

Date: 1/20/2014


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