As we celebrate Earth Day, the American Soybean Association (ASA) today salutes the contributions U.S. soybean farmers are making to improve the environment while sustainably producing food, feed and fuel.
"The world depends heavily on adequate supplies of food and energy, both of which are being produced sustainably from soybeans grown in the U.S.," says ASA President Rob Joslin, a soybean farmer from Sidney, OH. "ASA has tracked the steady growth of this legume crop since 1920, and has worked for many years to help farmers grow soybeans using production methods that enhance stewardship of land and water resources."
U.S. soybean farmers have a very positive story to tell on Earth Day. Over the past two decades, U.S. soybean farmers have dramatically increased yields while significantly reducing land use per bushel of yield, soil erosion and energy use. Soybean yield per acre has increased by 29%, while land use per bushel decreased by 26%. Due to conservation tillage methods, soybean soil loss indicators have improved dramatically over time, with a 31% reduction in soil loss per acre and a 49% reduction in soil loss per bushel. Energy use per acre has decreased by 48%, while energy use per bushel has decreased by 65%.
These trends coincide with significant technology changes. Use of biotechnology-enhanced seeds that facilitate improved weed control has become the standard, which has increased widespread adoption of conservation tillage practices that reduce fuel consumption while improving water and air quality.
A 60-lb. bu. of soybeans yields 48 lbs. of protein-rich soymeal, which is used for human consumption and livestock feed, and 11 lbs. of soyoil, which is used for edible products such as salad or cooking oil, or converted into industrials products like printing ink and biodiesel.
ASA supports the Renewable Fuel Standard Program (RFS2) that demonstrates biodiesel made from soybean oil can achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions relative to petroleum diesel by up to 85%. In fact, biodiesel is the only advanced biofuel available commercially in the U.S.
"U.S. soybean farmers are proud of the contributions they are making to produce an abundant and safe food supply, reduce the nation’s dependence on imported petroleum and enhance the environment for future generations," Joslin adds.