This piece was originally posted on Agri-Pulse.
By Rep. Rodney Davis and Dr. Peter Goldsmith
Editor's Note: Agri-Pulse and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs are teaming up to host a monthly column to explore how the US agriculture and food sector can maintain its competitive edge and advance food security in an increasingly integrated and dynamic world.
To improve food security in Sub-Saharan Africa and many other regions of the world, agricultural production systems need to be transformed. With widespread support, the University of Illinois and the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) are championing efforts to improve the way we produce, enhance and deliver technologies needed to improve our food systems.
The Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL) at Illinois is improving the entire soybean value chain in Sub-Saharan Africa. SIL provides the evidence-based guidance, knowledge and innovations necessary to sustainably develop soybean production and utilization value chains in developing countries. This important work not only reduces food insecurity in Africa, but also spurs the economic growth necessary to produce a growing market for U.S. agricultural exports.
During a recent event on campus, we discussed SIL’s groundbreaking work to improve the nutrition of locally-produced complementary and weaning foods through the inclusion of soy protein. We were joined on this visit by Chancellor Dr. Robert Jones, ACES Dean Dr. Kim Kidwell, and members of the Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) team, as well as members from various agricultural organizations in the community, including local Champaign and Vermilion county farmers, Growmark, and representatives of the Illinois Farm Bureau and Illinois Soybean Association. RIPE has increased crop productivity by as much as 40 percent and recently developed plants that require 25 percent less water. Their work begins with a model crop that is easier and faster to study, and now they are translating these successes into key food crops such as cowpeas, cassava and soybeans.