This story also appears in our University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources’ Agricultural Research Center Magazine. Stop by your local Research Center to pick up a copy!
Few people can respect the vast differences between soil types across Missouri and what it takes to grow crops in those unique settings.
Andrew Scaboo is one such person.
Scaboo, a University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources assistant research professor, leads the Northern Missouri Soybean Breeding Program and has soybean plots spread throughout the state. Several of those plots are located at CAFNR Agricultural Research Centers.
“I enjoy being a field-oriented researcher. Generally, I look at every single plot that we grow at least three times a year. Some of the plots I see a lot more, even several times a week. I like looking at my plots – that’s one of the more exciting parts of what I do. Looking at the work you’ve done for six or seven years is special. It is really neat to see the projects that you’ve designed come to fruition in the field.”
“The main focus of our research has been on variety development,” Scaboo said. “The largest part of our funding goes toward finding better soybeans for Missouri farmers.”
Scaboo has plots at the Fisher Delta, Greenley, Hundley-Whaley, Graves-Chapple and Bradford Research Centers. He also works closely with producers and has plots in a select number of farmers’ fields.
“We have a variety of research going on,” Scaboo said. “We have multiple-location tests that are the same at all of our locations that includes a wide range of projects. We do these experiments to understand how the same experiment performs in different environments across the same year and across other years as well. Everything won’t be exactly the same, but it is replicated.
“It’s certainly challenging. With different environments, being able to logistically and practically manage experiments in five locations is challenging. Because it’s challenging, it can also be very rewarding.”
Scaboo and his team are based at the Bay Farm Research Facility, located in Columbia. A 300-acre farm, which belongs to the Missouri Soybean Association, supports and facilitates research, business and market development and educational programs, and is home to partnerships between soybean farmers, MU, USDA and many others. The facility is also home to a large portion of Missouri’s soybean checkoff-funded research, similarly focused on growing opportunities and demand for the soybean crop and soy-based products.
Scaboo and his team conducts their research and stores their seed at the facility. They also work closely with soybean farmers in Missouri, as well as soybean organizations in the state.
No two soils are the same, meaning Scaboo has to treat each of his plots differently. What works well in one setting may not work as well in another. Learning about which soybean varieties thrive in certain environments is a big part of the soybean program.
Scaboo is on the road constantly to keep track and monitor his plots at the Research Centers.
“I enjoy being a field-oriented researcher,” Scaboo said. “Generally, I look at every single plot that we grow at least three times a year. Some of the plots I see a lot more, even several times a week.
“I like looking at my plots – that’s one of the more exciting parts of what I do. Looking at the work you’ve done for six or seven years is special. It is really neat to see the projects that you’ve designed come to fruition in the field.”
Scaboo has been with Mizzou since 2012, serving as a senior research scientist with Grover Shannon, a soybean breeder located at the Fisher Delta Research Center. Scaboo became an assistant research professor in 2015. He has led the soybean breeding program since joining MU.
His faculty position and the breeding program are fully funded by the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council (MSMC) and farmers’ contributions to the soybean checkoff. Scaboo’s program includes research specialists and technicians, dedicated field and laboratory space and production equipment, as well as opportunities for graduate students and undergraduate interns.
“I like getting out and talking to farmers, seeing their world and learning more about what’s going on with them week-to-week and season-to-season,” Scaboo said. “My goal has always been to develop improved soybean varieties to increase the profitability and productivity of farmers in Missouri, in the United States and the world.”
To develop those strong soybean varieties, Scaboo’s program does a variety of work, including genetic work, trait development and composition. Scaboo’s research centers around developing varieties with improved genetics yield potential, high oleic oil content, nematode resistance and abiotic (draught and food) and biotic stress tolerance.
“Creating better soybeans is at the top of our list,” Scaboo said. “There are several layers to this process. Under the variety umbrella, there is genetic diversity, specific traits, yield potential, biotic and abiotic stresses, among other research. We’re strong in each category and have some amazing individuals working toward this every day.
“One person can’t do it all. We have a lot of different expertise brought together to get things done as a team.”
Scaboo said several of their projects can last several years. It just depends on the research being conducted.
“The time from crossing a variety to when it’s released can be five to six years,” Scaboo said. “We are part of every stage of development – from deciding what plants to cross all the way to which lines are released. The data we collect, we have multiple years of comparisons.”
Scaboo has also built a strong program for graduate and undergraduate students. He works closely with those students on their projects. Scaboo is also a regular at the numerous Agricultural Research Centers field days. He speaks about the latest soybean research and talks with producers and landowners about other timely soybean topics.
“I’m always happy to talk about soybeans,” Scaboo said.