Teachers at the 2018 Ohio Soybean Council-sponsored Ag Biotech Academy workshop in Springfield learned about biotech in agriculture and its applications with soybeans.

Kyle Poling, Pioneer Hi-Bred Field Agronomist in West Central Ohio, shared about how the growing population brings an increased demand for food for people and animals. Poling said in the next 50 years, the world will consume twice as much food as the world has consumed since the beginning of agriculture 10,000 years ago.

Soybeans are used for protein (soybean meal) and oil. They can be grown efficiently, requiring less inputs, and they fit well with Ohio’s natural resources. The yield is about 45 bushels per acre, a number that has tripled in the past 75 years.

How can farmers continue to increase yield and protect their crops? Poling presented two buckets of soybeans to the group and directed them, “You pick out the next great variety of soybeans.” It was obvious that merely looking at the hundreds of similar seeds was no way to determine which were best.

Then Poling explained how biotechnology has made the selection so much easier, as desirable traits can be identified in the plant’s DNA, allowing for insertion or deletion of specific sections. He demonstrated this using two ropes with colored sections representing the way DNA knowledge allows seed scientists to locate and modify in a precise way, rather than the more clumsy, less specific methods used in the past.

Poling emphasized the advantage of this type of modification. Field trials of plant varieties once took a lot of time and money, but doing this work in the lab brings quicker and clearer results, benefiting the farmer and the consumer.

Activities in the “Biotech Skills in the Lab” part of the workshop covered topics such as genetic modification models and gel electrophoresis.