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Research could change nutrient recommendations

ST. LOUIS, MI -- A multistate research project could change the nutrient recommendations farmers get for growing soybeans after submitting soil samples for testing. The Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee (MSPC) is entering its second year of conducting a nutrient uptake study at three locations in the southern, central and Thumb regions of the state.

The nutrient uptake and partitioning study originated last year at the University of Wisconsin–Madison by Shawn Conley, Ph.D., and Adam Gaspar, graduate student. According to Brian Stiles, MSPC research technician, Michigan joins Wisconsin and Minnesota in working alongside Conley and Gaspar on the project designed to determine when during their development soybean plants use each nutrient.

The current soybean nutrient uptake curves, on which today's recommendations are based, were developed in the early 1960s, according to Conley. That was before the major changes in seed technology and agricultural practices of today.

Last year Stiles joined the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee after graduating from Michigan State University and hit the ground running with this labor-intensive project. A large number of samples need to be collected and analyzed, so two student employees assist Stiles.

Last year, after all of the plots were planted, Stiles said, "we visited each site once or twice a week. We took notes, recorded the growth stage of the crop, and collected plant samples from each plot during the V4, R1, R4, R5.5, R6.5 and R8 growth stages."

"After collecting whole plant samples from the field, we partitioned the plants," he added. Stiles explained that partitioning involves separating the leaves, petioles and pods from the stem and running the pods through a thresher to extract the seeds.

Next year will be the third and final year of the study. All of Michigan's nutrient analysis results will be sent to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where Conley and Gaspar will analyze the data from the three participating states and publish the results.

This project could result in the revision of nutrient recommendations for soybean production, Stiles explained. Crop fertility experts and soybean growers have established nutrient management practices based on previous research and their own experience. "This project may support those practices or it may offer new information to help fine-tune nutrient management practices to optimize soybean production."

The Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee manages soybean checkoff funds to increase return on investment for Michigan soybean farmers while enhancing sustainable soybean production. A board of farmer-leaders directs MSPC on behalf of the more than 12,000 Michigan soybean farmers. For information about soybean checkoff results, call 989.652.3294 or visit