|McMurtrey Iii, James|
Submitted to: Journal of Sustainable Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/16/2002
Publication Date: 6/1/2004
Citation: Wu, S.N., Lu, Y.C., McMurtrey Iii, J.E., Weesies, G., Devine, T.E., Foster, G.R. 2004. The economic and environmental benefits of large-biomass soybeans (LBSs)for increasing crop residues. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture. 24(1):107-128.
Interpretive Summary: Soybeans are planted on more than 8-million hectares of highly erodible lands (HELs) in the United States. To reduce soil erosion on HELs, U.S. soil conservationists recommend that the soil surface retains greater than 30 percent coverage of crop residue until planting of the next crop. Soybeans have been recognized as deficient in supplying crop residues that help control soil erosion. A new type of soybean, large-biomass soybeans (LBSs), tested at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Maryland, can grow to as high as 1.8-meters or more. LBSs have the potential for increasing crop residues to reduce soil loss on erodible lands. In order for LBSs to become a source of increased residue for soil conservation, the LBS's must be economically profitable and environmentally beneficial. This study evaluated the economic and environmental impacts of LBSs versus conventional soybeans using the data from a three-year field experiment. The results suggested that breeding for increased residue production in soybeans could produce significant environmental benefits in reducing soil erosion and possible offsite sediment damages. It is estimated that replacing conventional soybeans with LBSs on the entire 8.1 million highly erodible lands could save the society $144 to $490 million per year. The results from this study should help crop breeders, soil conservationists, and growers determine the value of developing and adopting new cultivars with increased crop residue for soil erosion control.
Technical Abstract: This study evaluated the economic and environmental impacts of large-biomass soybeans (LBSs) tested at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. Under a cropping system with conventional tillage and continuous soybeans, gross revenues from LBSs were about 2 percent to10 percent lower than conventional cultivars. However, LBSs produced more crop residues. The results showed on the average that soil coverage with LBSs increased 48 percent before minimum tillage and 133 percent after minimum tillage relative to conventional cultivars. Although LBSs are less profitable than the conventional soybeans at this experimental stage, the conservation benefits to the society could be enormous. It is estimated that replacing conventional soybeans with LBSs on the entire 8.1 million highly erodible lands could save the society $144 to $490 million per year. The conservation benefits of LBSs can be realized if enhanced biomass production can be combined with adequate grain production.