Maybe you think a soy­bean is a soy­bean when it comes to com­posi­ton. It’s not.

Successful Farming - - ACROSS THE DESKEDITOR’S - unit­ed­soy­­tein/.

some soy­beans have more pro­tein than oth­ers. You can’t tell by look­ing at the seed—you may have to dig into the seed lit­er­a­ture or ask your seed dealer to iden­tify the dif­fer­ences— but the con­trasts are there.

Some whole soy­beans may con­tain 32% crude pro­tein, for in­stance, while oth­ers can be above 37%. That 5% dif­fer­ence yields an ex­tra 100 pounds of pro­tein in a ton of soy­beans! Pro­tein level is im­por­tant de­spite the fact that soy­beans are called an oilseed. They could as eas­ily be called a pro­tein seed. Whole soy­beans are around 34% pro­tein by weight, and 70% of their value is in the soy­bean meal, the high-pro­tein part used in an­i­mal feeds.

That’s why de­vel­op­ing soy­beans with higher-pro­tein con­tent is cap­tur­ing the at­ten­tion of the in­dus­try. An ini­tia­tive of the United Soy­bean Board (USB) aims to bring aware­ness and trans­parency to it.

Two things are driv­ing it, says Mark Seib, a USB direc­tor and farmer from In­di­ana. One is the need to con­tin­u­ously im­prove our soy­beans to com­pete in global mar­kets. “We need to prove to cus­tomers that our soy­bean com­po­si­tion is still the world stan­dard,” he says. Pro­tein con­tent is im­por­tant for an­i­mal pro­duc­ers in par­tic­u­lar, and they’re watch­ing closely.

The other driv­ing force is that some for­eign buy­ers have the per- cep­tion that Brazil’s soy­beans are higher qual­ity, Seib adds.

Main­tain­ing the Stan­dard

Chris Schroeder, a con­sul­tant to USB on this topic, says per­cep­tions about the pro­tein qual­ity of Brazil­ian soy­beans could be as much mar­ket­ing hype as re­al­ity. Even so, he thinks U.S. soy­bean farm­ers need to fac­tor it into fu­ture seed choices.

“Right now, the mar­ket­place may not trans­par­ently re­ward you for grow­ing higher-pro­tein soy­beans,” he says. “But it’s still worth it be­cause of what buy­ers are de­mand­ing.”

It’s not only Brazil­ian soy­beans that are com­pet­ing for the an­i­mal feed mar­ket, adds Schroeder. Dis­tiller’s dried grains with sol­ubles (DDGS), canola meal, syn­thetic amino acids, and other pro­tein sources also can dis­place U.S. soy­bean meal.

So far, a USB pi­lot pro­gram has part­nered with mul­ti­ple el­e­va­tors to mea­sure pro­tein and oil lev­els in soy­beans. Through this pro­gram, they doc­u­mented a 4% to 5% pro­tein vari­abil­ity range at most el­e­va­tors. For in­di­vid­ual farms, the ranges were typ­i­cally 2% to 3%.

What farm­ers can do now is talk to their soy­bean seed deal­ers about plant­ing higher-pro­tein va­ri­eties. “Farm­ers choose va­ri­eties pri­mar­ily based on yield,” says Schroeder. “Of course, that’s a ra­tio­nal thing to do. It’s what you get paid for.”

But, he adds, as the USB ini­tia­tive brings trans­parency to the com­po­si­tion is­sue, farm­ers will know their pro­tein lev­els and fac­tor that into seed de­ci­sions, too.

“It won’t be a mat­ter of choos­ing yield or choos­ing pro­tein qual­ity,” he says. “You can have both.”

And it will help main­tain U.S. soy­beans as the world stan­dard for qual­ity.

Par­tic­i­pate in this year’s USB-funded crop qual­ity sur­vey to learn about the pro­tein lev­els of the soy­beans you grow. Visit

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