ISA Releases Soybean Variety Value Data to Help Protect Farm Revenue



Growers are encouraged to plant top-quality varieties to defend farm income from synthetic amino acids

BLOOMINGTON, ILL. —December 17, 2019 —The Illinois Soybean Association has posted an updated list of high-value soybean varieties at to help farmers fight back against farm revenue losses from synthetic feed ingredients.

The list includes feed value data from 248 soybean seed varieties and 40,250 soybean samples between 2013 and 2018. Each variety listed was planted in the 2018 Farmers Independent Research of Seed Technologies (F.I.R.S.T.) trials and planted in at least one test plot in Illinois from 2013 to 2018.

These varieties represent soybean farmers’ best options to reverse revenue losses and protect livestock feed market share from synthetic amino acids and other grains. The list ranks varieties according to feed value scores. Feed value is based on the levels of seven essential amino acids that nutritionists use when formulating livestock feed rations.

Results range from 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest), with results at or above a value score of 5.5 representing a variety that had higher-than-average value in livestock consumption.

“By selecting and planting soybean varieties with the highest nutritional value, you help protect soybean’s largest market, livestock feed,” says Linda Kull, Ph.D., Illinois Soybean Association director of ag innovations. Plus, you can do so without impact to yield.

“Because of declining soybean quality and feed value during the past 30 years, livestock producers—especially in swine—have significantly increased the amount of synthetic amino acid products or other grains in rations at the expense of soybean meal,” she adds. “Not only does this affect market share and the industry’s future, these downward changes in soybean inclusion rates negatively impact a farmer’s bottom line today.”

A Billion-Dollar Threat

“Nutritionists are well aware of the declining soybean quality and we know the feeding limitations due to this issue,” notes R. Dean Boyd, technical director emeritus, Hanor Company and Triumph Foods Group; adjunct professor of animal nutrition at North Carolina State University and Iowa State University. Livestock nutritionists actively monitor soybean feed value—defined by amino acid content—and source feed ingredients accordingly because those are essential nutrients needed by animals to maximize growth and productivity.

He acknowledges that this may be a difficult message for soybean growers to hear, but Boyd suggests that there are, indeed, opportunities for success ahead, provided the industry acts now to prevent further market erosion and build stronger demand by key customers and livestock end-users.

A single example from a 90,000-sow swine operation represents the magnitude of the challenge and cost facing soybean growers if soybean feed value continues declining.

Over a 10-year period, the operation:

  • Decreased soybean meal by 6,222 semi-loads (25 ton per load) annually
  • Increased corn/corn byproduct purchases by 6,060 semi-loads annually
  • Increased synthetic amino acid product purchases by 46 semi-loads annually
  • Reduced animal fat purchases by 116 semi-loads annually (less soybean meal = more net energy in the diet)

Assuming it takes 45.5 bushels of soybeans to make a ton of soybean meal and that corn equals 56 pounds per bushel, these purchasing decisions affected 155,550 tons or 7,069,747.50 bushels of soybean meal and 151,500 tons or 5,410714.29 bushels of corn.

Carrying the math one step further, this chart (Figure 1) shows the estimated price for each crop and the sales loss to growers due to reduced soybean meal purchases by the livestock operation. Note that the gains to increased corn/corn byproduct inclusion do not make up for the losses in soybean sales.

Figure 1: Estimated Gross Farm Revenue Losses from Declining Swine Feed Inclusion Rates
Figure 1: Estimated Gross Farm Revenue Losses from Declining Swine Feed Inclusion Rates

These annual figures are taken from a 90,000-sow herd operation that reduced soybean meal purchases while increasing corn/corn byproduct and synthetic amino acid purchases at the same time. The financial results are shown in today’s dollars. The example assumes it takes 45.5 bushels of soybeans to make a ton of soybean meal and that corn equals 56 pounds per bushel.

Keep in mind these figures represent one year’s purchases for one hog operation. Multiply this example across the swine industry and the lost revenue adds up to billions of dollars over time.

Select Varieties for Feed Value

Fortunately, says Kull, the solution is straightforward now that variety-level feed value information is available due to soybean checkoff efforts—and formerly invisible losses can be quantified. “Include feed value as an important part of your seed selection criteria,” she advises.

“Use this list available at to help identify those varieties that score 5.5 or higher that also fit your yield and other agronomic considerations,” she recommends. “If you are debating between two varieties, choose the variety with the higher feed value.” It’s the fastest, most effective way to reverse the declining feed value trend.

Doing so helps better meet livestock end-user needs, making soybeans the more attractive feeding decision—which will help offset the inroads synthetic amino acid products have made in soybean feed markets. And aid soybean growers to begin to regain the billions of dollars that have gone missing from farm income.

Visit to view the list of high-value varieties, learn more about the High Yield PLUS Quality program (HY+Q) or to request a sample kit for your 2020 soybeans.

The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) checkoff and membership programs represent more than 43,000 soybean growers in Illinois. The checkoff funds market development, soybean innovation and profitability efforts, issues analysis, communications and education. Membership and advocacy efforts support Illinois soybean farmer interests in local areas, Springfield and Washington, D.C. through the Illinois Soybean Growers. 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 the website


For More information, contact:

Linda Kull, Ph.D.
Director of Ag Innovations
Illinois Soybean Association

Amy Roady
Communications Director
Illinois Soybean Association checkoff program
Illinois Soybean Growers

(309) 808-3610