New York Becoming Soybean Country

Climate change and technologies grow soybean acreage in the Empire State.

Published on: Feb 22, 2012

There are reasons why New York State soybean acreage has doubled to 280,000 planted acres in 2011 since 2003. A warmer growing season weather has much to do with it, according to Cornell University Agronomist Bill Cox.

Warmer weather across northern New York teamed with high crop prices is already presenting attractive opportunities for farmers, says Cox. Compared to corn, it's a low-input cost crop that's currently commanding high prices.

Cox has conducted field trials in conjunction with Cornell Cooperative Extension, Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station, the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program and three area farms. He recently released the results to help growers decide which varieties to plant in 2012.

New York Becoming Soybean Country
New York Becoming Soybean Country

Northern New York's climate is no longer too cool to produce soybeans. Mid-season Group I varieties are adapted to the area. Early Group II varieties can mature if planted early near Lake Ontario.

Although the 2011 growing season was challenging, the trials produced very good soybean yields – 56 bushels per acre average yield for Group I varieties and 53 bushels per acre average yields for Group II, he reports.

"If global warming continues over the next several decades, northern New York may well prove to be the ideal location rather than a marginal region for soybean production," he adds.

Soybean acreage in New York has exploded from about 40,000 acres in 1990. The biggest growth area in the state was in the Finger Lakes region and western New York.

Areas even farther north have adapted well to the crop, with 659,000 acres grown in Quebec and more than 100,000 acres of soybeans grown in the province of Ontario in 2010. High soybean meal prices have more dairy farmers looking to grow their own soybeans and process them in an on-farm or local custom roaster.

Soybeans are attractive from a labor management perspective, especially on smaller dairy operations, he says. "If the current price remains at $11 per bushel, I would expect soybean acreage in New York, including northern New York, to increase in 2012."

Catch more on Cox's on-farm studies on page 5 in March's American Agriculturist issue. For more on climate change's impact on the Northeast, click on climatechange .