Soybeans once flew under the radar. Not anymore. This magical bean has come a long way since its quiet start in Illinois 100 years ago; times and technologies have changed significantly and will continue to do so. Harnessing these news tools and technologies will be key to making soybeans an even higher value crop. Gaining more value will require a shift in mindset and new approaches to better manage your soybean acres.
This new website is one tool to help us embrace more changes and succeed for years to come. But before I jump ahead to the next 100 years, some history …
In the Beginning
In my area in central Illinois, soybeans were first introduced as a forage crop for dairy and beef cattle. A century ago, farmers planted 2,000 acres of soybeans and harvested them with just a sickle bar mower. Enter World War II and increased demand for oil and meal; the U.S. doubled its soybean production between 1941 and 1942. Along with baler technology, the ’60s brought the soybean checkoff to drive crops forward.
The people who formed the Land of Lincoln Soybean Association recognized the potential of Illinois beans. Farmer checkoff dollars were invested in research to explore the factors that can increase production. They still are, because demand hasn’t slowed. Our beans are sought after worldwide for their nutritional and industrial uses. How far we’ve come in growing soybeans is no small feat, yet there’s still room to grow. We need continued progress to meet this growing global demand.
Room to Grow
Farmers in other states are already breaking the 100-bushel yield barrier. I know it’s well within reach in Illinois. But without the widespread adoption of new practices and technologies, it won’t be done. So, just like they were invested long ago, checkoff dollars are still dedicated to research. Today, we combine 50 years of history with 50 years of science. New tools, technologies and data are transforming how we approach soybean production. These things have helped us continue to succeed, even in the face of increased global competition.
At the same time we’re learning new tricks, we’re also returning to “old-school” management—revisiting cover crops, crop rotations and basic management practices. The key to keep improving yields and profits is to get these ideas and strategies to the people who can move needle on soybean yields. Farmers who don’t integrate new techniques with the old risk being left in the dust—and missing profits.
At this very moment, checkoff dollars are uncovering new ideas. They’re funding research that explores issues unique to Illinois soybean production and high yields. Issues such as herbicide resistance, double-crop soybeans, cover crops, soybean composition and pod counts. ISA leverages the state’s world-class universities and its relationships with researchers there. These researchers are dedicated to seeing the soybean industry succeed. It’s also ISA’s goal to get their information implemented on-farm.
Be Part of the Next 100 Years
Let’s motivate each other to break yield barriers. Let’s engage with each other here. Better management will lead to higher yields and better profitability for the whole Illinois soybean industry. We’re here to help.