You've heard seed companies tout a quantum yield leap for soybeans during the next two decades. You've probably also heard third-party observers doubt it.
Any way you look at it, soybean breeding efforts are supercharged. Genetic traits inserted into varieties could help farmers get a better handle on everything from diseases to drought tolerance.
Monsanto Company researchers are committed to doubling 2000 yields by 2030. National soybean yield in 2000 was 37 bu. per acre.
In 2008, it hit 42 bu. "Our goal is a U.S. average yield of 80 bu. by 2030,” says Roy Fuchs, Monsanto's global tech soybean lead.
He expects yields in the Midwest to hit 100 bu. per acre. Yields on marginal soil could reach 50 bu.
John Soper, Pioneer Hi-Bred's senior research director for soybean product development, says new gene combinations will help boost yield potential.
"We're looking at doubling the rate of gain from the traditional 1% a year to at least 2% a year. That will make a big difference,” Soper says.
Debate on Yield. At Syngenta, Gene Kassmeyer, head of the soybean product line, thinks soybean yields will increase in the next two decades but probably not double.
"I don't have any question that we will raise yield. The question is how much. I'm not quite so bold as to predict doubling yield. I do think we can increase the trendline 10 bu. in 10 years or so,” Kassmeyer says.
Some university researchers also question whether soybean yields can double in two decades.
"I don't see that kind of yield happening,” says Seth Naeve, Univer-sity of Minnesota Extension soybean agronomist. "There is no history that says the biotech revolution will change how we do business.”
- JANUARY 2010