Kentucky State University receives funding to study soybean production

Kentucky State University receives funding to study soybean production

Posted on August 10, 2023

Kentucky State University received nearly $600,000 in funding to study nitrogen management in soybean production to improve seed quality for producers in Kentucky and beyond.

The research, titled “Optimizing nitrogen management in soybean, integrating manual and high throughput aerial phenotyping,” is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture for 2023-2026.

“I’m very excited about this research project because of the urgency to improve seed protein concentration,” said Dr. Anuj Chiluwal, assistant professor of Agronomy and the project director for this research.

The soybean is one of the most important crops in Kentucky and in the United States, with a national production value of about $61 billion. However, many soybean producers are struggling to meet the minimum protein threshold for high quality animal feed.

“There is an urgent need to improve soybean seed protein concentration to make U.S. soybean competitive in a global feed market,” Dr. Chiluwal said.

Previous studies suggest that low protein concentration may be tied to nitrogen levels, so this project will evaluate what levels and timings of late-season nitrogen fertilizer application are most effective on soybean yield and seed composition.

The researchers will utilize High Throughput Aerial Phenotyping (HTAP), which is “rapidly emerging as a promising alternative” to manual data collection, which is labor-intensive, expensive, slow, and potentially damaging. This project will utilize several sensors to determine which are most effective to measure morphophysiological traits and yield prediction in soybean.

The results of this research will then be disseminated to farmers, researchers and Cooperative Extension personnel.

“I am really hoping the findings from this project would be helpful to improve the overall seed quality in soybean,” Dr. Chiluwal said. “We are very, very excited.”

Additional researchers on this project are Dr. Maheteme Gebremedhin, associate professor of Soil Science; Dr. Shawn Lucas, assistant professor of Organic Agriculture; Jeremy Sandifer, state specialist in Agricultural Technology for Small Farms; and Dr. Buddhi Gyawali, professor of Geospatial Applications, Human Dimensions and Climate Studies. For more information, contact Dr. Anuj Chiluwal.