Drought’s Impact on Quality Unpredictable, Researcher Says
Seth Naeve, Ph.D., a University of Minnesota soybean researcher who conducts the soy checkoff’s U.S. Soybean Quality Survey, is familiar with the increasing importance of quality to soy customers. He’s also familiar with how drought impacts soybeans. He says while drought can have a dramatic impact on soybean quality, that impact can be unpredictable.
The results of the most recent checkoff-funded U.S. Soybean Quality Survey found the oil level in last year’s soybean crop rose by 0.3 points to 18.5 percent last year. But protein dropped a half-point to 34.3 percent.
In this interview, Naeve talks about whether the current drought had a hand in holding down protein levels in last year’s crop.
Q: What’s the impact of drought on soybean quality?
A: The biggest issue with drought is that we don’t fully understand what the effect on quality is going to be. Weather has a dramatic impact on soybean quality. But based on when in the growing season we have drought, we can either have higher protein or lower protein levels.
Q: How did the current drought affect last year’s crop?
A: Last year, the drought affected different regions differently, so we weren’t exactly sure how quality would play out. So, overall, I think we’re happy that the quality was as good as it was.
Q: What can a farmer do to improve quality during a drought?
A: There’s nothing a farmer can do unless he or she has access to water for irrigation. It’s all about variety selection. In general, the highest-protein varieties tend to be higher-protein in most environments.
Q: How does the soy checkoff use the results of the quality survey once it’s complete?
A: We presented the results to purchasers in Japan and Taiwan. Buyers are most interested in overall quality – they want to know what U.S. farmers are doing to ensure high-quality supply in the long term. They also want to know about the growing conditions and how the drought impacted yield and how the soybean deals with drought.
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