COLUMBIA, Mo. — On a sunny mid-October day in Boone County, with unseasonably warm temperatures, a strong south wind raced across the test plots and fields of the Bay Farm, the Missouri Soybean Association’s research farm located east of Columbia.
Students and staff were at work researching soybean yields, resistance and varieties.
Greg Luce, director of research programs and the Bay Farm’s superintendent, started working on the farm in July 2015. Before that he’d worked for Pioneer for 32 years and done some work for the University of Missouri Extension as a grain crops specialist.
“This job gave me an opportunity to get closer to working with research and agronomy again,” he says.
The Bay Farm, located next to MU’s Bradford Research Center farm, provides a place for research into soybean production. It also has lab facilities, as well as office space and a conference room. The Missouri Soybean Association also owns the Smith Farm, located just on the other side of the Bradford Farm. Altogether, the association owns about 300 acres at the site.
“Our research comes from support from the Missouri soybean checkoff and the Missouri soybean growers,” Luce says.
He works with the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, which manages the checkoff money, to decide how to invest it.
“I help them decide where to put the emphasis on research,” he says. “We utilize the Bay Farm as a research facility.”
Luce says the northern Missouri soybean breeding program is housed at the Bay Farm, led by Andrew Scaboo and his staff. They work at the Bay farm and also coordinate soybean research and variety trials from other test sites across northern Missouri.
The Bay Farm allows the researchers to do “grow-outs” of different soybean varieties, Luce says, and the lab allows them to study genetic markers of soybeans before they even begin growing.
Luce says the soybean research led to the development of high-oleic soybeans, a healthier product. The new technology involves genetic selection, not modification, so it is non-GMO.
“They identified alleles that were needed to naturally select for a higher oleic content,” he says.
The Bay Farm’s proximity to Columbia makes it a good opportunity for MU students to work and study.
“It’s a huge learning opportunity and a place for students to actually practice and develop their skills in plant breeding,” Luce says.
The farm provides opportunities for several other types of testing and research. He says the farm is home to studies of cover crops, fertilizer, soil fertility and weed resistance, including dicamba resistance.
Luce says the Bay Farm is working with the USDA’s NRCS and Missouri DNR to start pollinator studies and ways to increase pollination.
Luce and others continue to work to make the farm as successful and useful as possible. The farm recently earned a grant from the Missouri Technology Corporation for improving soybean yields. Luce says they will use it to add irrigation to the farm and make improvements to the buildings and facilities.
“It’s a great place,” he says. “There’s been quite an investment here.”