1 November 2013. Grant to help UI soybean research aimed at Africa. Because soybeans are considered a low-cost, efficient source of high-quality protein and oil, the federal government is sponsoring a major new effort to explore soy’s possible role in increasing the food supply in Africa.
The $25 million, five-year initiative called Feed the Future Innovation Laboratory for Soybean Value Chain will be administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID. The lab is one of several recently announced as part of the Obama administration’s Feed the Future initiative set up to increase global food security, increase farmer incomes and improve nutrition.
The grant will help the UI-led consortium “launch foundations for soybeans in Africa, to bring soybean production expertise established by more than a century of research to these developing countries,” said U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, who was on campus for Friday’s announcement.
The research expertise will include scientists in plant breeding, crop production management and more. Goldsmith, the UI professor, will lead the effort.
“In a developing country context, in a tropical context, which is really Africa’s situation, (the soybean) has shown tremendous potential to alleviate poverty, develop economies and improve nutrition,” said Goldsmith, who has been involved in soybean research in South America and other low-latitude areas, roughly 15 degrees north to 15 degrees south of the equator.
The UI is well known around the world for its soybean research — it is home to the National Soybean Research Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s soybean germplasm collection. And the Africa project will involve an extensive list of UI experts, such as researchers who will look into different soybean cultivars that have potential to resist certain diseases and can better tolerate soils found in subtropical climates; livestock specialists who will work with farmers on raising healthier chickens; agricultural economists like Goldsmith who study supply and demand; researchers who will examine the environmental impacts of growing soybeans in these countries; and more.
The soy consortium also will include researchers from Mississippi State University, the University of Maryland, Delaware State University and others.