Sustainable soybean practices help you boost production to meet ever increasing worldwide demand, while looking out for future generations.
Illinois soybean growers have a long history of increasing production, while decreasing the impact made on the environment... and the effect ripples around the world.
Meeting today's sustainability goals is not a new idea. In fact, many Illinois farmers have been making improvements long before sustainability was popular, and we're still at it. As a result, the Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture – a national program that focuses on the use of environmental resources – has noticed a continual decline in soybean production's impact in five key areas: land use, energy use, soil loss, irrigation water use, and CO2 emissions.
Illinois Soybean Farmers Improve Environmental Efficiency
Each color on the chart below represents a 5-year period from 1980-2011. A smaller imprint on the spider chart indicates less environmental impact (view detailed report that compares Illinois progress to efforts made nationwide).
Reduced Footprint, Improved Production
Yield trends over the last 20 years show that growers are continually getting more production from each acre, which has resulted in a 26% decrease in land use from 1987 to 2007. New soybean varieties – brought about because of research conducted at four first-class university ag programs in Illinois – are one of the main reasons behind soybean production's decreasing footprint. These varieties are designed to improve productivity while reducing the impact soybean production has on the environment. Now soybeans can be planted closer together, helping fields retain soil moisture and reduce weed pressure. Crop residue can be left in fields, allowing farmers to employ no-till and reduced-till methods that greatly reduce soil erosion and the need for energy-intensive plowing. Growers can reduce pesticide and fertilizer use with newer soybean varieties, reducing runoff into groundwater and waterways. And farmers are spending less time in the fields managing soybeans, reducing fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 88 percent compared to conventional cropping systems.
Local and Global Impact
Soybean farms enhance the economic health of Illinois and provide great benefits to communities. By providing jobs, tax revenue and disposable income spent at local businesses, soybean farms add to the greater good of Illinois society. They also support productivity at other businesses – livestock operations, biofuel plants, food producers and others that use soy as a key ingredient. ISA works to educate grocery shoppers, especially moms, to understand how soybeans end up at the family dinner table, and programs like Illinois Farm Families (IFF) and ISA's "What Food Gets Fed" help communicate the role of soy in livestock operations.
On a global scale, 54 percent of Illinois soybeans are sent to international markets – with much of that demand being driven by China. When Illinois soybeans go overseas, they are often used in livestock operations, which is significantly more efficient than traditional feeds. Illinois has also joined with all U.S. farmers through the United Soybean Board and the American Soybean Association to provide technical resources to more than 80 countries. This support helps overseas livestock operators (and food customers) see how soybean meal can increase productivity and decrease environmental impact.