Missouri Soybean Host Bots at Bay Farm

Robots are improving efficiency in soybean breeding, counting for yield

This week the Bay Farm welcomed experimental robot technology to test soybean plots. This project – led by Dr. Andrew Scaboo, Assistant Professor, Plant Science & Technology at the University of Missouri-Columbia – is part of the North Central Soybean Research project focusing on improving efficiency in soybean breeding. These robots are counting soybean pods to project yields for growers. This research is a partnership with The Ohio State, Purdue University, University of Illinois and North Dakota State University. 

“Valuable tools like these robots, started in research development, find their way to practical applications on the farm,” said Greg Luce, director of research. “This technology could be used in the future for yield estimation that farmers would find valuable for their own planning purposes. If successful as a research tool, it can also enhance breeding programs to ensure quality products are made available to soybean producers.” 

To count the pods the robots have multiple cameras to estimate seed count and even size. This project is still experimental but could potentially enhance seed breeding by selecting the best progeny rows. This research at the Bay Farm will show how well it correlates to actual yield. 

“The utilization of automated technology such as robotics to assess yield of experimental lines in early stages of development may improve the productivity of our program, and in turn move products to the market in a more effective manner,” said Dr. Scaboo. 

Soybean growers should expect to see more of this technology in the near future. Robots for phenotyping could be used for multiple purposes including taking stand counts, crop scouting for diseases or pest issues, weed control and other uses. 

The Missouri Soybean Association is a statewide membership organization working to increase the profitability of Missouri soybean farmers through advocacy and education efforts across the state.