Frequently Asked Questions

What are soybeans?

The bushy, green soybean plant is a legume, related to clover, peas and alfalfa. In Kansas, soybeans typically are planted in April and May then harvested in September and October. When they flower in the summer, they can produce up to 80 pods per plant. Each pod contains two to four pea-sized beans. Soybeans are grown primarily for processing into meal and oil.

Where are soybeans commonly grown?

The main soybean-producing area is in the Corn Belt and lower Mississippi Valley. The three top-producing states in 2020 were Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota.

Nationwide, soybean production in 2020 totaled 4.14 billion bushels, up 16 percent from 2019. The average yield per acre was estimated at 50.2 bushels, up 2.8 bushels from 2019. Harvested area was up 10 percent from 2019 to 82.3 million acres.

In Kansas specifically, soybeans are much more common in the eastern third of the state and production wanes the further west in the state you go. Soybeans can be picky about their growing conditions and the drier climate in the west isn’t as well-suited for production.

Kansas ranks 10th in the national for soybean production, with 2020 totaling 190 million bushels, up 2% from 2019, across 4.7 million harvested acres. Yield averaged 40.5 bushels per acre.

For what are soybeans used?

Soybeans actually have hundreds of uses, from industrial products like engine oil to food products and animal feeds. Soybeans naturally are rich in protein and oil, and they have the highest natural source of dietary fiber, making them a versatile crop in terms of uses. When soybeans are processed, they typically are cleaned, cracked, dehulled and rolled into flakes. The process separates the oil and meal. The oil can be used in food products like salad dressing or cooking oils, or it can be used in countless industrial products. The meal, which contains the protein, can be used in food products or livestock feed.

How efficient are soybean farmers?

Today’s U.S. farmers grow twice as much food as the previous generation did. They do so using less land, energy and water and producing fewer emissions. U.S. soybeans are being produced more efficiently than they were 30 years ago. From 1980 to 2011, total soybean production increased 96%, and the yield (bushels per planted acre) increased 55%. Part of that efficiency can be attributed to biotech-enhanced seedstock, which has grown from 77% of total soybean acres in 2002 to 94% in 2018.

What do soybean farmers provide?

Feed. The livestock industry is the largest consumer of soybean meal. In fact, 97% of U.S. soybean meal goes to feed pigs, poultry and cattle. Animal agriculture is soybean farmers’ No. 1 customer. The soybean is the highest natural source of dietary fiber. A 60-pound bushel of soybeans yields about 48 pounds of protein-rich meal and 11 pounds of oil.

Food. Soyfoods – including edamame, tofu, soy beverage, soy nuts and other versatile ingredients like textured vegetable protein – offer flavor, texture, nutrition and health benefits. For centuries, soyfoods have played an important role in Asian cuisines. In recent years, they also have become popular in American cuisine. Soyfoods are cholesterol-free, excellent sources of high-quality protein, and they offer a healthy mix of polyunsaturated fat. Each serving of soyfoods provides 7 to 15 grams of protein. Evidence indicates soyfoods reduce the risk of several chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease, osteoporosis and certain forms of cancer. For women and girls, there are advantages to consuming about one serving of soy per day during childhood and adolescence. Studies from China and the United States indicate that consuming just one serving of soy each day when young may offer significant protection against breast cancer. Enjoying a cup of soy milk or ½ cup of tofu per day may reduce the chances of developing breast cancer later in life by as much as 50%. Experts recommend two or three servings of soyfoods daily.

Fuel. Biodiesel is a clean-burning fuel produced from U.S. renewable resources, including soybean oil. It is building demand and adding value for soybeans, creating environmentally friendly jobs and decreasing the use of foreign oil.

Furthermore. Other soy-based products include wood stains, concrete sealants, caulking, paint, insulation, foam, candles, beauty supplies and more.

What else can you tell me about Kansas soybeans?

  • Kansas has 12,000 soybean farms.
  • In 2020, Kansas ranked 10th in soybean production among U.S. states.
  • In 2018, Kansas farmers harvested 4.7 million acres of soybeans with an average yield of 44 bushels per acre.
  • Only 9.5% of Kansas soybean acres are irrigated.
  • In 2018, Sumner County was the leading soybean producer, followed by Brown, Marshall, Republic then McPherson counties.
  • Kansas soybean farmers received an average $7.95 per bushel in marketing year 2018, down from $9 in MY ’17.
  • The 2018 Kansas soybean crop was worth $1.6 billion, which was 27% of the state’s total principal-crops value.
  • In FY ’17, 61% of Kansas soybeans were sold in October, November and December.
  • As of March 1, 2019, 102.8 million bushels of soybeans were stored off farms in Kansas, and 32 million bushels were stored on farms.

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