Heidi Allen Asensio

Ph.D. Level Student
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Advised by Dr. Andrew Margenot

Towards Sustainable Soybeans: A Yearlong Assessment of Soil Health, Water Quality and Climate Footprint of Illinois Soybeans

As interest in metrics of agricultural sustainability permeates commodity markets, Illinois soybean producers may consider implementing climate-smart practices to gain access to new marketplaces and/or premiums. To support this, our ISA-funded project will establish benchmarks of soybean sustainability to increase the profitability and competitiveness of Illinois soybeans. Over four cropping seasons (‘23 – ‘26), we will evaluate metrices of soil health, water quality and the climate footprint of the soybean phase in two rotation systems, in conjunction with cover cropping (none vs cereal rye) and tillage (conventional vs no till) using randomized complete block design across the north-south edaphoclimatic gradient of Illinois: Ewing (south), Urbana (central), and Monmouth (northwestern). One year after implementation, we quantified soybean yields, nitrogen and phosphorus leaching losses, soil enzyme activities and permanganate oxidizable carbon. Additionally, we measured greenhouse gas emissions from the soybean and corn phases at weekly intervals, to determine carbon dioxide equivalency. By evaluating yield, carbon credit and nutrient outcomes across management practices and regions of Illinois, this work will deliver a comprehensive assessment nutrient and carbon footprints and provide tangible basis for informing soil health management in soybean production.