Northeast Is Become Soybean Growing Country

Soybean acreage in key Northeast states is growing due to feed and export values plus climate change.

Published on: Apr 5, 2013

Once upon a time not long ago, soybeans were not considered a Northeast crop. That changed quickly as varieties improved and dairy farmers caught onto the value of farm-raised soybeans.

Last year, for instance, Pennsylvania farmers harvested 520,000 acres of beans, up 30,000 acres from 2011. And New York growers harvested 312,000 acres of soybeans, up 35,000 acres from 2011.

Much of New York's acreage growth occurred in northern New York.

Cornell Agronomist Bill Cox suggests there's another factor: climate change or global warming. And while Northern New York farmers planted nearly 15,000 acres of soybeans last year – up from just 5,000 acres in 2007, he expects acreage to grow. "It's no longer too cool to produce soybeans in Northern New York with development of high-yielding Group I soybean varieties and the warmer summers in the region. As global warming continues over the next several decades, Northern New York may prove to be an ideal region for soybean production."

NOT ALL BEANS GO TO COWS: Rob Robbins and wife Nancy also raise soybeans destined for local cash sale and exports. Photo by Brian Whattam
NOT ALL BEANS GO TO COWS: Rob Robbins and wife Nancy also raise soybeans destined for local cash sale and exports. Photo by Brian Whattam

Export potential adds value
Export port access is also a positive factor for this region, contends Ron Robbins of Robbins Farms at Sackets Harbor, N.Y. He and other growers are harvesting soybeans for shipment to overseas markets. Railroad cars loaded with NNY-grown soybeans grew exponentially from 14 in 2010 to 50 loads in 2012.

Robbins also is capitalizing on the warming trend, using soybeans to feed dairy cattle, make domestic cash sales, plus export sales.

New York Corn and Soybean Growers Association Executive Director Julia Robbins says, "Research that provides growers with current and localized data for making corn and soybean seed-buying decisions is a key component for helping growers take advantage of the increasing global interest in these crops."

Variety trials promise higher yields
The farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program conducts on-farm variety trials to help growers select varieties with top yield potential. NNYADP-funded 2012 soybean trials at Miner Institute at Chazy, N.Y., found that 16 Group I soybean varieties averaged 81 bushels per acre with a yield range of 73 to 93 bushels.

"Such high yields indicate that climate conditions are certainly not a limiting factor to soybean yields in Northern New York," says Cox. "Soybeans don't require too many inputs so variety selection is a major determinant to successful soybean production."

Results of NNY soybean and corn hybrid trials are posted in the Field Crops section of the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program website at www.nnyagdev.org and are available from local Cornell Cooperative Extension offices.