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The soybean industry has faced declining nutritional quality for decades. Soybean protein fell again last year because most seed companies do not breed varieties for protein, and most farmers are unaware that nutrition quality varies widely in seed varieties. This is causing concern for livestock nutritionists who count on soybeans for high-quality protein.
Peer-reviewed analysis of data from thousands of soybean samples found billions of dollars in potential farm-value and livestock-feed-cost differences hiding at the variety level. Picking a soybean variety is routine. It costs farmers nothing to select seed that delivers higher nutrient levels, and the potential industry payoff is significant, according to the independent science review.
When agronomists, nutritionists and marketers looked at separate data for soybean quality, corn demand, and greenhouse gasses, they found that improving soybean amino-acid levels can automatically help increase feed corn demand by up to 3.8 percent. Improved demand for natural feed would increase overall revenue for crop farmers, who typically grow soybeans and corn in rotation. Soybeans with high nutrient levels also help livestock producers reduce feed costs, while cutting GHGs and energy use.
The GHG findings could help meet food retailer and consumer sustainability goals, as well. A 2020 Argonne Lab study found that production of natural feed like corn and soybeans causes less greenhouse gases than synthetic feed replacements.
“The data clearly show farm revenue and food sustainability can improve when farmers select soybeans with superior nutritional quality,” according to John Osthus, Blue Spring Communications president, and a partner in FieldRise, an independent farm and consumer sustainability practice measurement company. “Selecting soybean seed based on nutritional quality helps make natural feed more attractive for livestock nutritionists than greenhouse-gas-intensive synthetic feed. The findings fit neatly with the ‘integrated system’ view that USDA uses to define farm sustainability.”
Most companies have declined to improve soybean protein because they are paid for yield, not quality. AgReliant (AgriGold, LG Seeds) and Syngenta were the first seed companies to announce plans to prioritize improving soybean nutrition and oil value.
AgReliant specialty products manager Chuck Hill said, “As a seed company we focus on bringing value to our growers through the products we sell and the services we offer. AgReliant embraces the opportunity to bring more value to growers through higher livestock feed value, increased corn and soybean demand, and improved sustainability. This is a win-win for all involved including the consumer of the finished product.”
Dr. R. Dean Boyd, nutrition research scientist and Adjunct Professor in Animal Nutrition at North Carolina State and Iowa State Universities helped Blue Spring Communications watch the corn amount increase by using higher nutrient value soybean meal, literally one line up in the Dalex software that many livestock nutritionists use to formulate feed.
Boyd explained that high-protein soybeans naturally increase corn demand between 1 percent and 9 percent in pig rations. “When soybean quality improves, less is needed, but the value goes up to replace lost volume,” Boyd points out. “Corn replaces the soybeans and space normally filled by soybean protein alternatives and overall farm revenue increases. In pigs and poultry, the potential corn demand increases by up to 3.8 percent when soybean quality improves.”
University of Wisconsin soybean agronomist and FieldRise founding partner Dr. Shawn Conley said corn demand being directly tied to soybean quality was missed because agriculture is organized as separate crops. Seeing the “ecosystem view” makes common ground easier to find because most farmers who grow soybeans also grow corn, he said.
“Looking at the marketplace as a network instead as separate crops makes sense with livestock feed because corn and soybeans comprise most of the livestock diets,” Standard Nutrition Company Nutrition Director Dr. Bart Borg explained. “With the finding that feed contributes up to 90 percent of livestock greenhouse gas emissions, corn and soybean farmers who select the best quality feed improve their own revenue and automatically help their customers like me meet their livestock profit and sustainability goals.”
Blue Spring brought in the FieldRise science team to help its commodity research and promotional marketing clients distinguish soybean value at the variety level based on amino acids and oil. FieldRise is creating a website to help farmers to see which varieties help boost soybean nutritional value and corn demand while helping decrease greenhouse gasses: www.soybeanvalue.com.
For more information about improving soybean value, corn demand and sustainability, contact John Osthus at [email protected].
Benavides PT, Cai H, Wang M, Bajjalieh N. 2020. Life-cycle analysis of soybean meal, distiller-dried grains with solubles, and synthetic amino acid-based animal feeds for swine and poultry production. Anim Feed Sci Tech. 268:1-12. doi: 10.1016/j.anifeedsci.2020.114607.
Mourtzinis, S., Borg, B.S., Naeve, S.L., Osthus, J. and Conley, S.P. (2018), Characterizing Soybean Meal Value Variation across the United States: A Swine Case Study. Agronomy Journal, 110: 2343-2349. https://doi.org/10.2134/agronj2017.11.0624
Contact: John Osthus, FieldRise/Blue Spring Communications: 314-369-5015
SOURCE Blue Spring Communications
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