BLOOMINGTON, ILL.— May 23, 2013 — Most soybean farmers are ahead of the curve when it comes to applying sustainable production methods. That is the conclusion of a groundbreaking study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the National Sustainable Soybean Initiative (NSSI), funded in part by the Illinois soybean checkoff.
The average score from nearly 500 completed surveys was 0.8037 out of 1, meaning most soybean farmers are using many of the best management and sustainable practices measured in the assessment. These data are important for foreign and domestic soybean users.
"The survey can guide soybean farmers to improve their scores by suggesting farming practices that are more sustainable and easily implemented," says Don Guinnip, soybean farmer from Marshall, Ill., and Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) sustainability second vice chair. "The university is working toward showing how each practice affects the balance sheet. That information has tremendous value."
ISA directors hope the information will help farmers make better management decisions, protect profits and prove sustainability to customers. Results also could help protect market access, as this information becomes increasingly important for foreign and domestic soybean buyers.
The study uses questionnaires, available at www.soysurvey.com or in paper form, to measure farmer adoption of on-farm management practices. Practices range from production decisions to field scouting and pesticide handling. About 500 surveys, representing approximately 500,000 acres, have been completed so far with help from the United Soybean Board (USB), Wisconsin Soybean Association and Illinois soybean checkoff funds.
Data from Wisconsin and Illinois soybean farmers make up the majority of the results. So far, about 265 surveys had been completed by Illinois farmers, says Shawn P. Conley, University of Wisconsin Extension soybean and wheat specialist.
"The data show how farmers compare to what would be considered normal performance," says Conley. "Plotting sustainability scores show that the curve leans hard to the right, which is good news. That means most farmers adopt many of the recommended sustainable practices."
Those practices include adjusting planters for uniform seeding, and using tillage and management to maintain crop residue and soil surface.
"Farmers can easily keep making sustainability improvements to continue meeting marketplace demands," says Guinnip. "Adopting new technologies and strategies will not only ensure healthy land and balance sheets here at home, but also reassure the marketplace that we are committed to helping meet social, environmental and economic needs worldwide."
The surveys do not ask for specific field records, rather ask participants to rate their experiences with practices which can or have been implemented to effect change. Results are anonymous and are used to develop U.S. baselines for sustainability and document continuous improvements. For more information, visit www.coolbean.info.
"The checkoff investment in the NSSI program shows solid potential to make a big difference to farmers and customers," says Conley.
The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) represents more than 45,000 soybean farmers in Illinois through the state soybean checkoff and membership efforts. The checkoff funds market development, soybean production and profitability research, promotion, issues management and analysis, communications and education. Membership and advocacy efforts support Illinois soybean farmer interests in local areas, Springfield and Washington, D.C. ISA programs are designed to ensure Illinois soy is the highest quality, most dependable, sustainable and competitive in the global marketplace. For more information, visit www.ilsoy.org.
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Photo cutline: The average score of nearly 500 completed surveys at www.soysurvey.com was 0.8037 out of 1, meaning most soybean farmers are using many of the best management and sustainable practices in the assessment.