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USDA working to develop soybeans that tolerate flood

WILLMAR -- Soybean varieties that thrive even in soggy fields could eventually result from studies being conducted by scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

For more than two decades, Tara VanToai, a researcher from USDA's Agricultural Research Service, has studied flood tolerance in soybeans. Her studies have included soybeans grown in greenhouses, laboratories, growth chambers, experimental fields and farm fields.

VanToai and her colleagues are finding and incorporating genes from non-native soybean varieties in an effort to supplement the narrow genetic base of U.S. soybeans, and improve their tolerance of wet soil and the diseases often associated with wet soil conditions.

Flood tolerance is defined as the ability of a plant to survive 10 days of steady flooding during the plant's critical flowering stage. The varieties of soybeans used by most American farmers are damaged by even short periods in waterlogged soils.

Soybean varieties that grow in rice paddies in Southeast Asia could provide researchers with the genes needed to develop soybeans with tolerance to flooding, root rot and other plant diseases.

In addition to soybean lines native to Vietnam and Cambodia, USDA's research has also included lines from Australia, China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea that were created with modern breeding techniques.

One promising discovery is a flood-tolerant South Korean variety that showed only a 30 percent yield reduction after 10 days of flooding during the critical flowering stage. In comparison, a susceptible U.S. variety lost more than 80 percent of its yield after 10 days of flooding.

The development of an equally flood-tolerant soybean variety in the U.S. would be especially helpful for Mississippi Delta farmers, who sometimes see yield losses as high as 25 percent when they plant soybeans in rotation with rice patties.

CRP sign-up targets highly erodible land

Local Farm Service Agency offices are now accepting applications from landowners wanting to enroll highly erodible cropland into the Conservation Reserve Program. For enrollment purposes, the only cropland that qualifies is that with an erosion rate of at least 20 tons per acre, per year.

The sign-up is the result of a special initiative that was announced back in February to protect up to 750,000 acres of our nation's most highly erodible cropland.

Of the 750,000 acres targeted for this sign-up, Minnesota was allocated 11,220 acres. Offers will be accepted until either the state acreage allocation limit is reached or the Sept. 30 sign-up deadline arrives, whichever occurs first.

Interested landowners should stop at their local Farm Service Agency office to determine if they have cropland that qualifies.

Landowners enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term, resource-conserving covers on eligible cropland for a period of 10 years.

Currently, 29.6 million acres are enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, making it our nation's largest voluntary conservation program involving privately owned land.

Because of the program, nitrogen and phosphorus losses from farm fields were reduced by 623 million pounds and 124 million pounds respectively in 2011. It has also restored more than 2 million acres of wetlands and associated buffers, and reduces soil erosion by more than 300 million tons per year.

USDA proposes increase in Soybean Board membership

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is proposing to increase the membership on the United Soybean Board from 69 members to 70, to reflect changes in production levels that have occurred since the board was last reapportioned in 2009.

As required by the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, membership on the board is reviewed every three years and adjustments are made accordingly.

This proposal would increase board membership for Mississippi and would be effective for the 2013 appointment process.

The 69-member board administers a coordinated soybean promotion and research program designed to expand uses of soybeans and soybean products in domestic and foreign markets. The national program is financed by a mandatory assessment of one-half of 1 percent of the net market price of soybeans.

For more information regarding the soybean check-off program, visit

North Dakota eases import requirements for Minnesota cattle

The North Dakota State Board of Animal Health has relaxed importation requirements for Minnesota-origin cattle from all areas of the state, except for a small tract formerly known as the "Bovine Tuberculosis Management Zone."

North Dakota will continue to require a negative, whole herd TB test and a 60-day negative TB test for individual animals from herds within the former bovine TB zone, a small area in northern Minnesota.

Minnesota's TB outbreak started in 2005 when the disease was detected in a Roseau County herd. The North Dakota Board of Animal Health responded at that time by ordering additional testing of all cattle imports from Minnesota.

Wes Nelson is executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Kandiyohi County.