Recently, the checkoff-funded annual Soybean Crop Quality Survey results were announced in Asia. For the United States as a whole, the survey shows an increase in average oil levels of 0.8 percent, but a decline in the average protein level of half a percent.
The survey gives results by region. The Western Corn Belt posted an average oil level of 19.4 percent and protein content of 34.4 percent. These levels are good but they fall just short of what our export customers demand. Asian buyers demand at least 19 percent oil — we've satisfied this one — and protein content of at least 35 percent — we fell short here.
Oil and protein levels will definitely vary due to environmental conditions and genetics. Knowing that we cannot control the weather, we can control varieties that include higher protein and oil contents. This will not sacrifice yield, rather we will be planting varieties that put us ahead by containing higher protein and oil contents.
In order to increase the value of your beans, you have to know what your customers beyond the elevator are demanding. For example, the No. 1 export customer for U.S. soybeans is China and what buyers there are focused on is quality, which is based on oil and protein levels. Chinese buyers are buying quality, not bushels per acre. To meet quality demands it's important that every soybean farmer grow soybean varieties that target at least 19 percent oil and 35 percent protein.
As harvest came to a close, I found myself thinking about the soybeans I had grown. Were they the best choice? The answer: Well, it depends. If my soybeans meet the demanded levels of oil and protein, then I chose the right variety that met the demand of export customers. So, how do you meet demand? Informed seed selection, that's how. That led me to the next question: What varieties achieve high yields and high levels of oil and protein?
Finding the answer is easier than ever. In fact, the soybean checkoff launched worldsbestbeans.com, a new Web site, which helps with understanding how quality affects price and with investigating seed varieties.
There's also a program on the site that you can order or download called the Variety Selector. It allows you to compare yield, oil, protein and other performance characteristics of various soybean varieties. The data presented is collected from university and third party trials. We are looking at public data in one place to assist farmers in making a good business decision on their farm.
With this information in hand, you're better prepared to select seed that meets your customers' demands. Always ask your seed dealer for high-yielding, high oil and protein varieties and satisfy your customers.
In order for your soybeans and every other soybean farmer's beans to remain No. 1 in the world, it's important that we understand that from the buyer's perspective it's about quality over quantity.
Remember to ask your seed dealer for soybean varieties that are high-yielding and target at least 19 percent oil and 35 percent protein. And if we all do the same, we'll raise and maintain high overall average oil and protein levels, which make U.S. soybeans even more desirable.
Jason Bean is a director for the United Soybean Board.