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ARS Honors Geneticist for Giant Forage Soybean Plants / February 13, 2002 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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ARS Honors Geneticist for Giant Forage Soybean Plants

By Don Comis
February 13, 2002

BELTSVILLE, Md., Feb. 13—Geneticist Thomas E. Devine won an Agricultural Research Service 2001 Technology Transfer award for pioneering the reintroduction of soybean as a forage crop– but with two major differences. The three new varieties he has released in the past five years–Donegal, Derry and Tyrone–are giants, more than six feet tall, and they’re the first U.S. soybean varieties bred especially for forage, using the entire plant rather than just the grain.

Soybeans were first raised for livestock forage and reached their peak in the 1920s. Then George Washington Carver and others showed that soybeans would be valuable for human food as well as industrial products. By 1964, only three percent of soybean acreage was for forage. Devine has worked hard in recent decades to change that.

ARS, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific research agency, will honor Devine and other scientists today at a 1 p.m. ceremony at the agency’s Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center.

Devine works in the center's Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory.

He will receive a plaque and cash award for Superior Technology Transfer from Edward B. Knipling, ARS acting administrator. ARS awards the tech transfer award each year to scientists or teams of scientist who are especially successful at getting their research out into the marketplace and into the hands of users.

“Devine not only spent 19 years developing the varieties–with performance tests in 24 states–but he followed through, first by certifying the varieties under the Plant Variety Protection Act and then by giving technical guidance to the three seed companies that licensed the rights to market them,” Knipling said. “He also devoted time to publicizing the varieties in the farm press and communicating with farmers, industry and extension personnel.”

The new varieties are so popular that it was hard to meet demand in the early days of seed production, but seed production was expanded to meet demand. As an example of their popularity, Donegal has been planted alone or in seed mixtures on 15,000 to 20,000 acres of cropland in 2001. And Derry is being grown from Pennsylvania to California, showing a wide range of adaptability. There has also been international interest in all three varieties.

Devine received ARS Certificates of Merit for his research in 1997 and 1998.

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Last Modified: 2/13/2002
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