Hi there, my name is Max. Well, my full name is Glycine max, but almost nobody calls me that. You see, I am a soybean plant. You may not understand, but as a soybean plant it’s really hard to get people to notice you as an individual. People say we all look alike, which I guess I can sort of see when there may be over 11 million of us in an 80-acre field. At any rate, I’d like to tell you a little bit about the things that I’ve had to endure in my short life.

I’m not sure where to start my story, but life began for me as a seed in an Illinois field last summer. After being harvested (a wild story which I’ll save for another day), I was stuck in a bin with almost a billion of my siblings and just hung out there for a few months. One day, a bunch of us were taken by truck to a seed processing facility where we were checked out one-by-one and took a bath in a pink liquid, which I later learned was called seed treatment. They told me that it would protect me from all kinds of scary things in the soil, and boy were they ever right!

After the treatment dried off, I was placed in a bag with 139,999 of my closest friends and relatives to await planting season. I was looking forward to being gently placed into warm, moist soil where I could germinate quickly and reach my full potential, but someone had other ideas. We were rudely removed from our bag and unceremoniously buried on March 10; that soil sure was cold!

You may not realize it, but there are up to a billion microorganisms in one teaspoon of soil. Most of those are beneficial or harmless, but there are quite a few bad guys as well. The names Pythium, Phytophthora, Rhizoctonia, and Fusarium may not mean much to you, but let me tell you – they strike fear into the heart of soybean seeds everywhere. Luckily for me, my fungicide coating protected me, and the bad guys dropped dead before they could get close enough to infect me. There wasn’t a lot of insect activity since the soil temperature was so low, but I’m sure they didn’t want a piece of the insecticide action anyway.

I started to grow slowly after being planted, and on April 13 I finally broke through the soil surface. My neck was sore from all that pushing, but I straightened up pretty quickly and basked in the sun. It only took a couple of days of sunlight to get rid of that pasty winter tan I had going on. I was a healthy-looking green before I knew it, and blissfully unaware of the next challenge I would face.

April 20 is a day I will never forget if I live to be 180 days old! I was just sitting there, minding my own business, when the sky suddenly started to darken. Next thing I knew, something cold, wet, and white was falling on me. This continued for several hours as it got colder and colder. By the time evening arrived, I wasn’t sure how much more I could stand. As the night went on, ice crystals accumulated on my cotyledons and the areas between my cells started to freeze. When the temperature dropped to 26ºF, my outer layers started to die off and I was sure I wasn’t going to make it. I’ve never been so relieved in my short life as I was when the sun started to rise again in the morning.

It didn’t warm up much the next day, and soon it was apparent that we were in for more frosty weather overnight. Even though I knew what to expect this time, it was tough to endure. I made it through somehow with a node intact, and I am currently in the process of sending out a new shoot. My agronomist is hopeful that I can make a full recovery and be a productive member of my field. I’ll be sure to keep you updated.

To be continued…

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About the Author: Jason Carr

Former Soy Envoy and current soybean technical product manager with Bayer Crop Science, Jason Carr evaluates new soybean germplasm and assists independent licensees with identifying varieties that fit their operations. Previously, he led agronomic research projects with corn and soybeans focused on creating tailored solutions for growers. Prior to that, he spent a decade in soybean breeding with Monsanto and led a team developing numerous commercially successful varieties in RM groups 2 and 3. Carr holds a master’s in molecular genetics and a bachelor’s in natural resources and environmental sciences from the University of Illinois.