Why soybeans matter to us

We’re developing new soybean seeds that support higher yields and help growers to meet the enormous global demand for this versatile crop. Soybeans are miniature powerhouses that produce high quality protein which is easily processed by the human body. The majority of global soybean production is pressed to make vegetable oil used in the manufacture of many foods, including margarine, salad dressings and mayonnaise.

Soybeans’ role in the economy

Trade flows
Trade flows
Trade flows - Soybeans and soybean oil in 2010

Soybeans are one of the world’s most popular crop plants. More than 100 million hectares - an area roughly the size of Germany and France combined - are given over to this crop. Annual production is valued at 100 billion US dollars.

Argentina, Brazil and the United States account for some 80 per cent of soybean production. Each year, around 40 million tons of soybean oil is pressed from the harvest.

Soybeans - It all starts with the seed

Consumption Soybean oil Worldwide 2011
Consumption Soybean oil Worldwide 2011
Consumption - Soybean oil Worldwide 2011

To meet the ever-changing challenge of pests and weeds, we’re developing traits and investing in breeding. In 2011, genetically modified soybeans accounted for around 73 per cent of the seed used globally. They are part of a system that outsmarts pests and stays one step ahead, helping farmers maximize their yields. Yield gains on the field mean greater sustainability for agriculture, and ensure that soybean production continues to deliver the high value versatility demanded for our food and feed uses globally.

Our soybean seed and trait offerings are growing rapidly, enhanced by recent investments in breeding and infrastructure to help service major markets in the United States, Brazil and their immediate neighbors. Our built-in weed control feature Liberty™ Link is already widely known in the market place and is used by over 100 seed companies, offering a competitive option to other herbicide tolerance systems to stay ahead of rapid weed resistance developments.

With such technological advances, it’s important we don’t lose sight of the benefit of traditional practices too. Many farmers see soybeans as a helpful part of their crop rotation plans. After a soybean season, farmers do not need as much nitrogen fertilizer for the next crop.

Problems farmers face

Soybean farmers dread the signs of a fungal infection like soybean rust on their crops. Sometimes there are just small, brown spots on the leaves. Sometimes the entire plant is yellow. Originally from Asia, this fungus has spread to the American continent. On infected fields, up to 80 per cent of the harvest is at risk. In Brazil, in some seasons, more than three million tons have been lost.

Yellowed plants may also indicate pests. Nematodes, for example, attack the roots of the plant, robbing it of nutrients. About 30 per cent of the maximum possible yield is currently lost to harmful organisms such as stinkbugs, beetles, caterpillars, worms, aphids and mites, fungal and bacterial infections, and a wide range of weeds. Competition of weeds is becoming more tough, especially with the development of resistance to herbicides. Getting the best yield is a constant battle.

(From left to right) Adult neotropical brown stink bug on soybean, Symptoms of a virus disease on a soybean leaf, Caterpillar of the woolly pyrol moth and feeding damage on soybean leaf.

Answers we offer

We’re providing solutions for growers fast and reliable whereever soy is grown and new problems in the field threat growers.

A good start for soy requires the protection of Poncho™/Votivo™ or CropStar™, solutions that protect plants against insects and nematodes. Caterpillars are able to defoliate 100 per cent of plants, while sucking insects attack pods and affect yield and quality of grains. Solutions like Belt™ and Connect™ protect plants and allow plants to express the full yield potential.

It only takes a few weeks for soybean rust to destroy an entire crop. Farmers have to act fast when they spot the first symptoms. Help comes from Fox™ and Sphere™ Max, two highly effective and eco-friendly fungicides from our Nativo™ product family.

New technologies for the field

Our support for farmers is not just limited to outstanding products. We also run various programs and projects with farmers so that we can meet their needs.

In the United States, the world’s largest soybean-growing economy, we launched the ‘Respect the Rotation’ initiative to promote seed and chemical diversity and prolong the effective use of these important tools against the impact of resistant weeds and insects.

At the same time, we’re working to improve soybean varieties by protecting them against specific insects and repel the persistent attack by nematodes or making them tolerant to the most effective herbicides.

Increased productivity of the last years is based on improved germplasm. We’re investing in people, technology and infrastruc-ture to offer high yielding varieties for growers in the United States and Latin America.

We’re also focusing on discovering alternative forms of control, combining our efforts in biology and chemistry to find the most effective solutions, fast. So far, this has resulted in Votivo™, a seed treatment that coats seeds with bacterial cells to ward off nematodes. We also have an expert team with Midas™ for killing pests and diseases using modern plant biotechnology, ultimately ensuring a healthy future for soybean production around the world.