Soybeans have shocked and surprised many producers over the past few years, partly from yield improvement and acreage growth. Industry leaders are looking toward the future, searching for a way to continue to drive value for growers based on quality.
Good prices and big yields are helping to drive planted acres.
“Some of the yields soybean farmers had consistently across their fields, hearing reports of 70 or 75 bushel yields across some of their farms, are absolutely amazing,” said Steve Censky, CEO of the American Soybean Association (ASA). “That’s the product of better genetics and the evolution of plant breeding and molecular breeding that’s taken place.”
In 1975, U.S. farmers put in roughly 50 million acres of beans, this year, the forecast calls for 88 million.
John Motter, chair of the United Soybean Board (USB) and Ohio farmer, says in the last six or seven years, there’s been a roughly 30 percent growth in the volume of the U.S. crop.
“We see the growing area expanding—we see the volume expanding,” said Motter. “No matter the quality of my product, if my neighbor has lower protein or oil content, we’re both selling by the bushel. It’s a volume game and when we all pick our seed, we ask that dealer how does it yield.”
Since roughly 1995, protein per acre has gone up along with yields, but the percentage of protein in beans has fallen. Motter says the soybean industry is aware and it’s looking at new pricing models to build incentive for better beans.
“These days, we look at all of this crop and how do we get a better reward?” he said. “Can we get paid for the quality of that crop rather than the quantity of that crop?”
That would mean devising a pricing system that pays more for higher protein or more oil. The soybean industry is already working on technology for delivery points that could quickly test for those components.
More work is needed, but Motter says it’s time to start asking new questions at planting time, which is a conversation that could lead to better beans, higher prices and improved performance from one farm to another.