U.S. soybean farmers ensure sustainable planting, growth and harvest through these practices.
Farmers have increased their yields by 55% on roughly the same amount of land through conservation practices.
Decreases achieved in
Every day — in times of abundance or scarcity, plentiful rain or heartbreaking drought — United States soybean farmers work to protect and conserve the land.
As a result of sound science, ongoing research and faithful implementation of key conservation practices, our farmers have increased their yields by 55% on roughly the same amount of land. And, as our yields have increased, we have achieved a marked decrease in carbon emissions, energy and fuel use, greenhouse gas and soil erosion.
Learn more about some of the top farming practices U.S. soybean farmers have developed, adopted and proven essential to their ongoing efforts toward sustainable success.
Through soil conservation practices, U.S. farmers have reduced soil erosion by 65% per metric ton of U.S. soy production since 1980.
Tillage is the management of crop residue on the surface of the land following harvest. U.S. soybean farmers often practice no-till or conservation tillage, in which the previous crop residue is left on the surface rather than tilled into the soil. No-till requires far less fuel, protects the delicate top layer from soil erosion, reduces the loss of moisture from evaporation, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, maintains or improves the soil’s organic matter content and provides a natural aid to pest control.
By increasing productivity of
Decreased by 46% from 1980-2012
Decreased by 47% from 1980-2012
It just makes sense — using less fuel and energy in the process of planting, growing and harvesting is better for all of us. All the key sustainability practices used by farmers are designed to conserve as much as possible. Precision chemical application, planting, irrigation and no-till practices significantly reduce fuel use, decrease the impact on the environment and promote efficiency by reducing operating costs.
Irrigation water applied per incremental metric ton decreased 42% from 1980-2012.
Irrigation water applied per hectare decreased 10% from 1980-2012.
Modern irrigation technology and equipment significantly reduces the amount of water necessary to maintain healthy crops. Center pivot irrigators are designed to decrease evaporation by lowering sprinklers closer to the ground and allowing all of the water to be distributed to the crop. These sprinkler systems also reduce soil erosion and provide increased reach into even the farthest corners of every field.
Farmers can’t control the weather, but they can plan for it. Water storage ponds provide rain-or-shine protection against climate variability and are a key resource in maintaining a high crop yield. Either natural or man-made, these ponds serve as a reservoir to provide easy access to water in dry weather and store run-off water and reduce flooding in wet weather.
Farmers manage the amount and placement of fertilizers to decrease toxic run-off into groundwater.
Precision nutrient management is the careful delivery of nutrients essential to soil and plant health. Precisely calculated amounts and strategic placement of fertilizers delivers the optimal amount of nutrients. This allows crops to reach their full potential while minimizing the impact on the environment by decreasing toxic run-off in groundwater and surface water.
Cover crops maintain the space in which other staple crops usually remain. They are beneficial to the farmer by maintaining healthy soil and indirectly supporting neighboring environments.
Farmers plant cover crops to help preserve healthy soil and biodiversity while simultaneously fighting erosion, weeds and pests. Cover crops are seeded into agricultural fields either within or outside the regular growing season of the staple crop. These crops may vary, depending on the specific needs of the farm.
Increases or maintains water content in the soil
Organic matter is added to the soil and enhances soil fertility
Crop rotation is the practice of planting a diverse set of crops in the same field in different seasons. By alternating deep and shallow rooted crops, soil fertility has the opportunity to build. In addition, varying the crops in a specific field decreases the chance for crop-specific weed and pest growth to take hold, thereby encouraging better overall yield.
Farmers scout fields in order to identify insects, weeds and diseases that may affect crops.
Scouting minimizes the use of pesticides. Farmers go deep into their fields to examine crops and visually identify any kinds of bugs present on the land. Once any insects are identified, the farmer determines the kind of bug per square foot and cross-references with the insect’s natural predators. If natural predators are not present or available to be introduced to maintain control of the bugs, the farmer calculates the minimal amount of pesticide to do the job.
Satellite technology allows precise application of seed and fertilizer.
With state-of-the-art GPS systems now standard features on today’s sprayers, farmers can distribute fertilization chemicals with increasing precision. The system detects the layout of the field as well as previously treated paths, allowing the farmer to treat only where necessary. The GPS system is so accurate in displaying location that if the driver overlaps an area, individual nozzles in the overlap area automatically shut off. And, because the nozzles spray directly down on the plants, there is little to no excess spray.
A grass waterway is a natural or constructed channel that is shaped to the landscape. Its purpose is to convey run-off from water concentrations to decrease soil erosion and improve water quality. In combination with no-till, this practice virtually eliminates soil erosion and enhances the environment by sustaining a variety of native grasses that provide food and shelter for wildlife.
Soil erosion decreased 66% per ton of U.S. soy production since 1980.
Terraces are low embankments of land with slopes that fit the contour of the land. Their purpose is to guide water safely across fields of crops, thereby reducing soil erosion and run-off, and increasing water and nutrient infiltration. These curving slopes work for the farmer’s benefit as well as the environment’s by reducing the amount of pesticide run-off.
Forest buffers help prevent hazardous run-off from farmlands, allowing infiltration of surface water and reducing flood and erosion damage.
Hectares of wetlands and riparian buffers were restored by the Conservation Reserve Program.
A Riparian Forest Buffer is a forested area on a farm adjacent to a stream, lake, pond, river or wetland. Its purpose is to intercept contaminants from surface run-off, allow infiltration of surface water, reduce flooding and prevent soil erosion to crop fields. These buffers cool down the temperature of the natural body of water, enhancing the natural aquatic life and supplementing neighboring ecosystems, as well as provide a scenic and lively forest for all types of native life to flourish.
Buffer strips help control air, water and soil quality.
Nutrients & Pesticides
Strategically placed and planted, buffer strips of native plants provide multiple benefits to soybean crops and the surrounding environment. Trees, shrubs, perennial and herbaceous vegetation, grasses and wildflowers all play specific roles in buffer strips by reducing wind and soil erosion, reducing run-off and acting as a trap or filter for sediment or contaminants. Native wildlife also greatly benefits by using this land for food and refuge.
Sustainability starts on the farm … but it doesn’t end there. Customers of U.S. soy are increasingly demanding sustainable sourcing, and U.S. soybean farmers are 100% committed to ensuring every link in the U.S. soy supply chain operates sustainably.
Maintaining dedication to proven sustainable practices enables U.S. soybean farmers to protect our earth, air and water for this generation and for future farmers and consumers to come.