Soybeans are an important staple of Virginia agricultural exports and are among the top five crops exported to markets overseas. In the last agricultural census, soybeans were also the top revenue-generating crop with more than $300 million in sales.
The lucrative Virginia crop is sought out as far away as Japan, where fermented soybeans are eaten as a breakfast item called natto.
Hillary Mehl, assistant professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science, is working to keep Virginia a sustainable, soybean-producing powerhouse.
Mehl conducts research at Virginia Tech’s Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Suffolk and works to better understand fungicides and their role in cultivating soybeans in the commonwealth.
“Part of our work at the AREC is looking at fungicide resistance in row crops, including soybeans,” said Mehl.
Recently she has been researching fungicide resistance of a disease that threatens soybeans, called frogeye leaf spot. The fungus creates brownish circular spots on leaves that can turn into large patches of blight.
She also collects weather-based information that allows her to determine the most optimal time for her constituents to apply fungicides.
“Ultimately this research will allow growers to forgo fungicide applications when they are not needed, which is good for the environment, and optimize application timings when they are needed to protect yield and farmer profits,” said Mehl.