March 21, 2005

Illinois Soybean Checkoff Board awards SIUC $500,000

by K.C. Jaehnig

soybean gift

Caption follows story

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A $500,000 gift from the Illinois Soybean Checkoff Board will help Southern Illinois University Carbondale soybean researchers help the farmers who gave them the money.

Checkoff Board Executive Director Lyle Roberts, Chairman Stephen J. Scates of Shawneetown, Treasurer Ken Dalenberg of Mansfield and board members Wally Denzer of Bloomington, David Hartke of Teutopolis and Carol Meyer of Steeleville presented the check to SIUC Chancellor Walter V. Wendler, SIUC Provost and Vice Chancellor John M. Dunn and College of Agricultural Sciences Dean Gary L. Minish today (March 21) on campus. The money comes from a penny-per-bushel fee farmers pay to the board at the grain elevator when they sell their beans.

The board's gift will establish an endowed fund managed by the SIU Foundation. The University either will match the interest accrued by the fund each year or donate an additional $20,000 annually - whichever figure is more. A seven-member advisory group made up of checkoff board members and ag college representatives will draw on these two sums to make awards for everything from research aimed at solving specific problems to "sweeteners" designed to entice key researchers to stay at SIUC.

"We are grateful to the board for this commitment of recurring funds, which will create new opportunities for our soybean researchers," Wendler said. "It will also strengthen our efforts to become a leading soybean research institution with a reputation for overcoming real-world challenges for soybean growers, consumers and the soybean industry."

Leading in research, scholarly and creative activities is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.

SIUC soybean research has long focused on helping farmers counteract soybean cyst nematodes and soybean sudden death syndrome - two costly diseases that lower grower yields.

"Our research program has grown steadily from those early studies primarily because of the strong support from our grower partners, the Illinois Soybean Checkoff Board," said Minish.

This most recent gift will support research focusing on a broader role for the humble bean.

"With our evolving strengths in biotechnology, we have been able to initiate the use of human and animal models for investigating the role of certain bio-active components of soybeans as they relate to disease and the health of consumers," Minish said.

"Public policy issues including consumer acceptance of genetically modified soybeans and the inclusion of soy products in school luncheon menus have added new research and educational thrusts to our soybean programs."

Soybean research at SIUC received a big boost in 1997, when the University created the Center for Soybean Research, Teaching and Outreach, which aims, among other goals, to enhance soybean production in Illinois and the north central region and to increase use of this versatile legume both here and abroad.

"The soybean center is a collaboration of more than 40 faculty and support staff, not just from the College of Agricultural Sciences but from the College of Science and the School of Medicine as well," Dunn said. "The dynamics of this diverse array of interests and disciplines assures that most areas of soybean research, teaching and outreach are addressed by multidisciplinary teams."

To get grants from the new fund, that team brainpower will have to focus on the here and now.

"We're not looking at an arena where you won't see results for 15 to 20 years — this is problem solving for growers who have to live with those problems and want some answers," said Associate Dean John S. Russin, who will oversee the fund awards.

The fund may also help SIUC keep key researchers.

"If Dr. X gets an offer from Kansas State, we'll be able to say, ‘We can guarantee you so much for research assistance if you stay,'" Russin said.

"It's not only an incentive for faculty to remain in Illinois but even more importantly a psychological boost to researchers committed to solving those practical soybean challenges."

Russin said the fund's advisory group will consist of the Checkoff Board's executive director, chair and research committee chair as well as the dean and associate dean of the agriculture college and the heads of the plant, soil and agricultural systems department and the animal science, food and nutrition department. He expects the group to hold its first meeting in the fall.

(Caption: Supporting research – Stephen Scates (seated, left), chairman of the Illinois Soybean Checkoff Board, and other Checkoff Board officials presented Southern Illinois University Carbondale with a $500,000 gift to establish an endowed fund to support soybean research efforts. Sitting with Scates – a member of the College of Agricultural Science’s first graduating class in 1959 – is SIUC Chancellor Walter V. Wendler. Gary L. Minish (standing, left), dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, and John M. Dunn, provost and vice chancellor, also participated in the check presentation ceremony.)

Photo by Russell Bailey