Statistics & Studies

Soil management is a significant driver of climate change, accounting for 55% of all U.S. agricultural emissions in 2018.* However, U.S. soybean growers are adopting practices to help.

  • USDA estimates that farmers planted 94% of U.S. soybean acreage in 2020 with seed enhanced by biotechnology. These crops not only make weed control more effective and less costly, but also provide environmental benefits.
  • Through technologies such as herbicide-tolerant seed, U.S. soybean farmers can reduce their reliance on tillage for weed control, increasing conservation tillage and reducing the number of trips through the field.
  • Other sustainable results include reduced fuel use, fewer greenhouse-gas emissions, less soil compaction and decreased soil and water runoff.*
  • In a study conducted by ASA, a majority of growers surveyed indicated that GM soybean technology has been the factor of greatest influence in their adoption of reduced tillage practices.
  • In 2016 alone, improved tillage practices enabled U.S. soybean farmers to remove the equivalent of 2.1 million cars on the roads through reduced tractor fuel and greenhouse gases sequestered in the soil.*

In a farmer study conducted by the soy checkoff in 2018:

  • 59% of farmers said they have changed their production practices to increase the sustainability of their operation.
  • 32% of farmers said improving soil health is the most important thing for U.S. soybean farmers to do to maintain and increase the sustainability of soybeans.*

Field to Market’s 2016 National Indicators Report for soybeans confirms soy growers are producing more with less (study period 1980-2015):

  • Soil conservation, meaning less erosion/land loss, improved 47% per acre and was the strongest marker overall.
  • Energy use decreased 35% per bushel.
  • Irrigation water use dropped 33% per bushel.
  • Total soybean production increased substantially, up 120%. Production increased faster than land acreage planted, up 20%, illustrating the role of increasing yields, up 63%.
  • Land use (planted acres/bushel) declined by 40%, further demonstrating improved yields.
  • Greenhouse gasses for U.S. soybeans have been trending down, with pounds of carbon dioxide-equivalent GHG emissions per bushel produced dropping significantly the past 35 years.
    • Over the course of the study, greenhouse gas emissions improved by 45%, reduced from 13.6 pounds CO2-equivalent gas per bushel in 1980 to 7.5 pounds per bushel in 2015.
    • While this is positive momentum, the soybean industry through its SSAP is committed to more significant improvements and a net decrease goal for emissions.

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), with support from ASA and other agriculture groups, recently conducted a study of the environmental benefits of precision ag in the U.S., including soybean production.

We share the compelling results of that study on our Precision Agriculture page.

With support from the Walton Family Foundation, ASA completed a research study in 2019 to evaluate soybean farmers’ attitudes and experiences with conservation programs and practices.

Please take a look at findings from that study, consisting of four focus groups and a quantitative survey of ASA members in 13 states, on our Walton Foundation Partnership page.