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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Ohio Soybeans Suffer in 2008

January 12, 2009

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio's 2008 soybean crop was one of the worst for growers in several years, with yields falling below 40 bushels per acre for the first time since 2003.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture November Crop Production Report, soybean yields tapped out at 36 bushels per acre, nine bushels lower than in 2007 and the worst production year since 2002 when yields averaged 32 bushels per acre. Growers harvested nearly 4.5 million acres, up 300,000 acres from 2007, but production was down 38,000 bushels.

Jim Beuerlein, an Ohio State University Extension agronomist, said that weather is to blame for the poor soybean season.

"We experienced extreme flooding in late June and a drought in August and September. The plants were under stress during most the season, and as a result we lost a lot of plants due to flooding, erosion, and root rot diseases," said Beuerlein, who also holds an appointment with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. "The beans got off to a bad start and just never recovered. It wasn't anything that producers did wrong."

Beuerlein said the weather affected results of the Ohio Soybean Performance Trials, an OSU Extension variety evaluation that measures crop performance. The trials are designed to aid growers in choosing the best-performing, highest-yielding varieties for the following season.

"Of the six locations that were evaluated, yields were down anywhere from 20 to 40 bushels an acre due to the flooding and the drought," said Beuerlein. "I had one field that had about 1,000 plots in it and we probably threw away 600 of them. In another field, where one end of it was a lower elevation, I lost a quarter of the field right off that end when the rains hit. And then there were other places where erosion just washed plots away. I lost more plots in 2008 than I've lost in the last 40 years of my research."

Results of the Ohio Soybean Performance Trials can be found at Most soybean yields ranged from the mid-20s to the mid-50s.

Beuerlein said that the results of the trials are reflective of what most Ohio soybean growers experienced in 2008.

"Many growers planted their crop or parts of their crop three times. When you replant that much, expenses will go up and your profits will go down," said Beuerlein.

Beuerlein estimates that Ohio growers lost nearly $300 million in 2008 due to the problems the crop faced throughout the season.

"Growers made good money in 2007 and were able to buy new equipment or replace worn equipment, but they aren't going to be able to do that this year as a result of 2008," said Beuerlein. "Let's just hope that 2009 turns out to be profitable -- 2008 was a year we kind of want to forget."

The soybean is Ohio's No. 2 field crop commodity, generating nearly $2 billion to the agricultural industry, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Soybeans are grown in Ohio for a wide variety of uses -- from grain to food-grade to renewable energy production.

Candace Pollock
Jim Beuerlein