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Finding the Right Matches - University of Missouri CAFNR News

CAFNR researchers develop low-processing lines of soybeans suitable for Ghana farmers

Written by  · November 14, 2016

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Kristin Bilyeu has been researching soybean seed composition since 2003. Before the fall of 2013, her research, though, strictly dealt with soybean issues in the United States. When she was asked to join a team of researchers from several different institutions to form the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Soybean Value Chain Research, her focus shifted to Africa and an effort to develop a low-processing variety of a soybean known as Jenguma.

“It was a steep learning curve for me because I hadn’t worked in any kind of international developmental setting before but I was looking for that, so the opportunity came at just the right time for me,” said Bilyeu, who serves as an adjunct associate professor in the Division of Plant Sciences as well as a research molecular biologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.

The Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL), a five-year program scheduled to run through 2018, is the only one of its kind dedicated to soybean research for development funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. MU’s primary partners in SIL are the University of Illinois (the lead institution) and Mississippi State University.

It is one of more than 20 U.S.-university-led innovation labs sponsored by Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative with a focus on female smallholder farmers who account for most of the agricultural labor in a majority of Sub-Saharan African countries.

“There is a soybean revolution going right now because of all the benefits of soy,” said Kerry Clark, a research associate in the Division of Applied Social Sciences who is a part of the MU team involved with SIL. “The idea behind the Soybean Innovation Lab is for the smallholders and farmers in Africa not get left out of that revolution.”