The SCN Coalition won a national Best of NAMA award in 2019 for its public relations campaign. The group is a public checkoff and private partnership formed in 2018 to increase the number of growers actively managing soybean cyst nematode.
The National Agri-Marketing Association is the largest U.S. association for marketing and agribusiness, and the Best of NAMA Awards honor the nation’s best work in ag communications. Since its launch, the SCN Coalition’s public relations efforts have made 12.1 million impressions among North America’s soybean growers.
“The SCN Coalition is a large team effort, and there are dozens of people responsible for our successful campaign launch,” says Sam Markell, plant pathologist at North Dakota State University and the coalition leader. “We built the SCN Coalition as a public-private partnership. This includes university scientists in 28 states and Ontario.”
Other partners include grower checkoff organizations such as the North Central Soybean Research Program (NCSRP), United Soybean Board with state soybean promotion boards, and partners in the private sector, including BASF, Bayer, Corteva Agriscience, Growmark, Syngenta and WinField United.
Growers need to test fields
Greg Tylka, an Iowa State University professor and Extension nematologist, is leading the coalition’s activities in Iowa. The results from more than 25,000 experimental research plots conducted by Tylka and his staff in Iowa over 15 years serve as a basis for the SCN Coalition information and messages. The field research is continuing and is funded by the soybean checkoff through support from the Iowa Soybean Association.
The goal of the SCN Coalition’s campaign is to have the entire industry speak with one voice in an effort to reduce the economic loss soybean growers are facing from SCN, says Tylka says.
It starts with “Take the test. Beat the pest.” Growers need to know their SCN numbers, and that starts by sampling and testing soil in their fields for SCN, so they know what their nematode populations are doing.
SCN is North America’s top yield-limiting pest in soybeans. “Unfortunately, research shows SCN populations are adapting and reproducing on PI 88788, the source of resistance used in 95% of all SCN-resistant varieties, and yields are decreasing,” Markell says. “Most soybean growers are not aware their yield loss is increasing. That’s why we formed the coalition.”
Coalition sees success
Markell credits the coalition’s a small, diverse group of scientists who helped build the SCN Coalition and continue to lead it: Tylka; George Bird, a Michigan State University nematologist; Albert Tenuta, an Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs plant pathologist; Kaitlyn Bissonnette, a University of Missouri plant pathologist; Ed Anderson, Iowa Soybean Association director of research and NCSRP executive director; and Palle Pedersen, global head product manager at Syngenta Seedcare. He also cites MorganMyers, the strategic communications firm that helped Markell’s team of scientists develop the SCN Coalition.
“Early success of the coalition is the result of two main things,” Markell says. “A great group of people who shared the same vision of success and have worked tirelessly to get there, and the support of the soybean growers and private corporate partners who believed we could make a national impact.”
Before the coalition was launched, Markell’s team visited potential public and private partners to understand the positions that the industry and academia had on key SCN management recommendations. According to Markell, “Alignment was right there, and it was extremely encouraging.”
Soon after, the coalition equipped partners with messages, training and tools to raise grower awareness, and built thescncoalition.com, a one-stop shop for state-specific SCN resistance management recommendations.
The SCN Coalition was officially launched at Commodity Classic in 2018, with a panel of growers discussing how they actively manage SCN; a press conference announcing the coalition and the research that led to its formation; and a booth staffed with nematologists and plant pathologists ready to “talk ’todes.”
“I’m proud of the approach we took to develop the coalition — grounding it in science, recruiting partners and working together toward unified messages. I’m very excited that our approach was recognized with a national Best of NAMA award,” Markell says. “But we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”