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Published September 24, 2012, 10:53 AM

Boosting research

North Dakota’s corn and soybean growers organizations both have added new top guns for research.

FARGO, N.D. — North Dakota’s corn and soybean growers organizations both have added new top guns for research.

Greg LaPlante started Aug. 1 with the North Dakota Corn Growers Association and North Dakota Corn Utilization Council as director of research. In mid-September, the North Dakota Soybean Council announced it would hire Ken Nichols as director of research programs.

The new positions are similar to the one Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers gave to Carlyle Holen, research consultant, but these indicate an increased focus for the region’s farm organizations.

LaPlante spent 29 years as an independent crop consultant — the first 20 with Centrol of Twin Valley, Minn., and the remaining nine at his own consulting firm called GL Crop Consulting, based in Wahpeton, N.D. He’s left some of those client acres with Centrol and some he’ll keep. He says it’s important to keep in touch with “real-time” problems for on-farm responsibilities.

“There’s a lot of money to be put into research and there’s a lot of consequences of research,” LaPlante says. “Production practices and yield goals keep on going up.”

The federal commitment to research has waned, so commodity groups are stepping up their push for basic research, but “not research for research’s sake,” LaPlante says. Areas of special interest are soil salinity and aflatoxin and Goss’s Wilt disease.

LaPlante says he’ll work with extension workers and others. “We’re trying to elevate and direct the research we’re looking for,” he says. “We’ll work with the other states and with independent companies to see who’s doing what. There’s a big need out there, especially as corn moves west. We want to make sure there’s a resource for those growers, and that we do research out in those areas.” He says growers in the west need information about adapting corn into reduced- or no-till systems, and answers on fertility, plant population and other cultural practices.

Ken Nichols

Similarly, Nichols has more than 30 years of experience in the agriculture industry. “We are excited to welcome Ken to our council team,” says Diana Beitelspacher, North Dakota Soybean Council CEO. “Research has always been a key focus area for the council and Ken will play an instrumental role in working to find solutions to our producers’ greatest production challenges. We look forward to his leadership in this area.”

Most recently, Nichols spent five years as North Dakota State University’s Traill County Extension Service director and ag agent. He holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from NDSU and is a certified crop advisor. He also has served as an agronomist for Cenex Farm Service in Elliott, N.D., and as the manager of Midland Fertilizer in Enderlin, N.D.

North Dakota soybean farmers are represented on the North Dakota Soybean Council Board, which oversees promotion, research and marketing programs — all funded by soybean check-off dollars.