Results of the soybean checkoff-funded annual Soybean Crop Quality Survey were recently announced at key industry and media events in Korea, China, Taiwan and Japan.

Iowa State University analyzed 1,600 samples from 30 soybean production states, which included measurement of oil and protein levels. This year’s soybean crop of more than 3 billion bushels shows an increase in oil levels of 0.8 percent and a decline in protein content of half a percent compared to 2004. Samples ranged from 28.9 percent to 41.7 percent protein content and oil levels of 14.6 percent to 22 percent.

The crop quality survey serves as a guide to buyers on overall U.S. soybean quality for decisions regarding the purchase and use of U.S. soybeans. The survey also helps soybean checkoff farmer-leaders identify soybean production regions that may need improvements in soybean quality to meet customers‚ demands.

Asian exports represent more than 50 percent of U.S soybean exports with China as the single largest export customer. Twenty-nine percent of export volume to China is shipped from the Pacific Northwest (PNW).

A large portion of PNW exported soybeans are Western Corn Belt-grown. The soybean checkoff is working to improve the protein and oil levels of soybeans in this region to meet the demands of overseas buyers. Lower protein levels could greatly impact the ability to compete with other soybean-producing countries.

The survey indicates that the Western Corn Belt region, which includes North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri, had an average protein content of 34.4 percent and an average oil level of 19.4 percent. While these numbers are good, checkoff efforts continue to encourage soybean farmers in that region to ask their seed dealers for high-yielding, high oil and protein soybean varieties when making seed selection. The target for farmers in this region is 19 percent oil and 35 percent protein.

“Since our region [Western Corn Belt] has low average protein content, we’ve got to remain diligent in our efforts to increase protein,” said Vanessa Kummer, USB director and a soybean farmer from Colfax, N.D. “With over 50 percent of soybean production coming from the Western Corn Belt region, any dips in protein and oil could pull down the overall U.S. average. With the national average protein content already at 34.92 percent, that would impact all U.S. soybean producers.” Kummer, along with John Wray, USB director and a soybean farmer from Ottawa, Kan., were among the presenters at the events in Asia.

In efforts to address demand for high oil and protein levels, the soybean checkoff works to inform soybean farmers on the importance of seed selection. High-yielding, high-oil-and-protein soybean varieties are available, and farmers are encouraged to ask their seed dealers for them. Worldsbestbeans.com provides access to additional information on seed selection, including the checkoff-developed Variety Selector program, which can be downloaded or ordered for free.

“We can meet Chinese demands for oil and protein, and informed seed selection is the way to do it,” said Kummer. “We have to be thinking as farmers about the very real possibility of our major customers turning to other suppliers if we can’t get our protein levels up.”

USB is made up of 64 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. Checkoff funds are invested in the areas of animal utilization, human utilization, industrial utilization, industry relations, market access and supply. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Customer Information Act, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.