New Phenotyping Facility Brings Together Indiana Agriculture

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 6, 2016) – With a desire to harness the ability of big data and advanced technology to improve yields, Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Marketing Council recently announced a major investment in the automated plant and phenotyping facility at Purdue University. The facility will be named the Indiana Corn and Soybean Innovation Center.
ISA and ICMC each provided $1 million in checkoff funds to support the facility’s construction and to purchase equipment for the new automated plant phenotyping facility at the Purdue Agronomy Center for Research and Education. Each organization gave an additional $1 million which will be placed in two endowments to be used for future research to directly benefit Indiana soybean and corn farmers.
The facility, which will open this summer, demonstrates the opportunities that exist when farmers, academic researchers and industry collaborate to develop new and innovative technologies.

David Gottbrath - Indiana Corn Marketing Council President and farmer from Pekin, Ind.
Why did Indiana’s corn farmers choose to invest checkoff funds in this project?
Through supporting this phenotyping facility, we have an opportunity to invest checkoff in a project that will benefit farmers for the foreseeable future. Advancements in technology play a vital role in helping farmers remain efficient and sustainable. We believe that phenotyping research offers farmers a prime opportunity to develop new technology and help farmers on their farms.
How will this project benefit future generations of Indiana’s corn farmers?
As we look to the future, the goal of farmers will continue to be to have plant varieties that will give farmers the best output possible with the least input possible. Through the new center, students and researchers can explore ways to make that possible and then bring that technology to the farm.

Joe Steinkamp - 
Indiana Soybean Alliance President and farmer from Evansville, Ind.
Why did Indiana’s soybean farmers choose to invest checkoff funds in this project?
Indiana soybean farmers know that we need to continue to think outside the box when it comes to new technologies. The new phenotyping research facility is going to offer researchers the opportunity to test many of those outside the box ideas on a small scale, to see if they should be ramped up in bigger research projects in the future. Farmers know that the more tests that are done, the more opportunities for a game changing technology break through. Each farmer knows that in his or her farming career he or she only has an opportunity to produce about 40 crops. The ISA board realizes that technology advancements are the best way to feed more people and preserve the environment.
How will this project benefit future generations of Indiana’s soybean farmers?

The center will be used to help train both graduate and undergraduate students under the direction of the nation’s premier researchers. These students are often the best and brightest, and some will move on to industry, some will move back to the farm and some will stay in academic life. The more minds we have working in agriculture the better the future will be. The center will provide our current researchers with the latest technology to help them with their research. Moreover, Indiana soybean farmers from the ISA board will serve on the board that will direct research funding. These farmers will be directly tasked to be our advocates for the best and most forward thinking research.

 Dr. Karen Plaut - Senior Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Affairs, College of Agriculture, Purdue University
What is phenotyping?
Phenotyping in simpler terms means measuring the physical and biochemical characteristics of plants. These include characteristics like number and color of leaves, spacing between leaves, root structure, canopy cover and other characteristics. It can also include measuring grain yield and the amount of protein, oils and carbohydrates in seeds. This is an important field of research, because while the genetic background of plants may be known, the environment varies and this variation will cause differences in the physical characteristics – the phenotype. Understanding how the phenotype varies in different environmental conditions helps researchers to understand how plants grow and how they are likely to respond to different environmental conditions.
Why is phenotyping research an important investment for Indiana corn and soybean farmers?
Researchers at Purdue’s new phenotyping facility will assess the physical characteristics of plants (the phenotype) so farmers can adapt crop production practices to improve crop productivity. These new tools will enhance precision farming by enabling more precise and quicker detection of nutritional needs and earlier disease diagnosis, maximizing yield while minimizing inputs. Using big data and advanced technology, we will be able to determine what physical traits farmers need to measure to enhance sustainable production practices while keeping Indiana farmers competitive in the global market.
Dean Jay Akridge College of Agriculture, Purdue University
In what ways does this project leverage the current relationship between Purdue University and Indiana corn & soybean farmers?
Purdue Agriculture has had a long and productive research relationship with Indiana’s corn and soybean farmers as represented by the Indiana Corn Marketing Council and the Indiana Soybean Alliance. The insights from Indiana farmers have helped us focus on the highest priority areas to insure our farmers have access to highest impact research-based advice. This new investment opens up entire new areas of research that were simply not possible before. The new automated phenotyping facility and associated research endowment will let us explore new ways of improving plants, new technologies for measuring plant characteristics, and will engage the broader Purdue community in the work. This investment will let Indiana farmers invest in new and exciting areas, and the new facilities and the associated Purdue investment in plant sciences will help us lever even more productively every dollar invested.
How will this project help Purdue attract researchers, faculty and students?
The best faculty and students want to be at a place where they can realize their professional aspirations. And, one part of providing that environment is having world-class facilities. Just as farmers need the right technology to maximize their productivity, so do researchers. This new space will play a major role in recruiting new faculty members working on plant improvement. And, the training that students will receive while working on research in the new facility will make them more industry ready and even better equipped to move into production agriculture.
Contact: Megan Kuhn, Indiana Soybean Alliance & Indiana Corn Marketing Council, 317-614-0377 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .
About Indiana Corn Marketing Council
The Indiana Corn Marketing Council was established by the Indiana General Assembly to promote the interest of corn growers in the state and manage corn checkoff funds. The Council is composed of 17 voting producer directors and seven appointed industry, and government representatives. For more information, visit
About Indiana Soybean Alliance
The Indiana Soybean Alliance works to enhance the viability of Indiana soybean farmers through the effective and efficient investment of soybean checkoff funds and the development of sound policies that protect and promote the interest of Indiana soybean farmers. ISA is led by an elected farmer board that directs investments of the soybean checkoff funds on behalf of more than 28,000 Indiana soybean farmers. Visit for more information.
This communications was funded with Indiana soybean and corn checkoff dollars.