With Northwestern Minnesota representing the largest growth of soybean production in the state and research being a key investment of the soybean checkoff, it’s easy to
understand why there’s been a new face at the Northern Minnesota Soybean Office in Red Lake Falls. In January, Carlyle Holen was hired as the research consultant to help northern farmers identify research needs and
then coordinate research efforts.
“One of my main responsibilities is to talk with county soybean associations, identify their research needs and
then assist in problem solving,” Holen said. He credits Dave Torgerson, Executive Director for the Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers, for much of the momentum behind his work, noting the desire to have soybean
grower involvement in what’s developed in northwest Minnesota.
One goal is to set up a system for growers to directly bring forth the research needs they see. “One of our
goals is to create a soybean research committee that’s going to consist of soybean associations, the University of Minnesota, private industry, ag chemical companies – virtually everyone who works in soybean
production,” he said.
Since most of the soybean associations in northwest Minnesota are relatively new, Holen is also helping develop
more of them across the region. Red Lake and Pennington counties are interested in forming an association together, and there may be support in Norman County to form one.
Holen grew up on a farm in Stearns county, and after college in St. Paul, Minnesota, he became a county agent in Kittson County. He eventually moved to Crookston and spent the next 30 years in Extension
working in the Integrated Pest Management Program.
“I spent a lot of time working on soybean weed control issues so I understand soybean production in the region,” he said.
He commented on a series of five soybean varietal trials that will be placed in regions near organized soybean county association.
These will be a collaborative effort between the county soybean associations and the University of Minnesota. Locations will be added as more county soybean associations are formed.
“This first year a number of us in the Northern Soybean office will be providing labor and assistance to Russ Severson, U of M
Extension crops specialist, who is leading the project,” said Holen. “I will assist in planting and harvesting, and try to be as helpful as possible as we try to figure out the best process possible to work
Ultimately, the expectation is that the association partnerships, as well as the research conducted, will result in a better system
for soybean producers to identify the research projects needed to increase yields and profitability.
“That’s going to end up focusing university efforts to applied projects the region wants to see occur,” Holen explained. “These
coordinated varietal trials should result in better variety information so growers can make the right planting decisions. That has an immediate dollar impact on them.”
He’s quick to add that, “Another impact is transfer of information. We hope there’s an improved system for getting information out to
growers so they can be more involved in the process, can ask for more information if they need it and get information in a quicker turn-around time.”
In the whirlwind of activity within the soybean checkoff, he is willing to admit the learning curve is pretty steep. As he jumps from
one activity to the next, meeting one committee after the other, he feels like he has much to wrap his arms around. He is learning all of the processes in place, and becoming part of the process at that, all the
while knowing total integration will take time.
One of his recent points of integration was being involved with the soybean checkoff’s Research & Tech Transfer committee’s
evaluation of research pre-proposals.
“There were 31 proposals for research across the state in soybeans,” he said. “I was not aware of the broad scope and depth of
research projects that range from molecular and conventional breeding methods to water management. Even though I had been involved with the soybean industry I was unaware of the incredible investment soybean
producers are making in their industry. It’s breathtaking.”
If he’s got one thing it’s enthusiasm and strong belief that the work he’s doing will truly help farmers.
“I think I’m very lucky to have the chance to work in this kind of position. It seems
like there is no down side to interaction between all the groups,” he said. “Each group that I talk with sees the benefit in working together and the valuable investment the checkoff is making to enable this