Researchers Want to Know What’s Limiting Soybean Growth

Up-close view of a soybean. Photo:Thinkstock.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Is it varying weather patterns? Planting dates? Soybean varieties?

Soybean growers across several Midwestern states want to know what’s limiting their soybean yields, said Laura Lindsey, a soybean and small grains specialist with Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

To help find the answer, Lindsey is working on a multistate research project to identify key factors that preclude soybean producers from obtaining the yields that should be possible on their farms. The goal of the project, she said, is to identify causes of this “yield gap.”

“One common complaint from farmers is that their soybean yield is the same no matter what they do,” Lindsey said. “While it is fairly common to find yield increases in corn crops from year to year, that’s not necessarily the case in soybean yield.

“The term used for the difference between what soybean yield is possible on a farm each year and what soybean yield a farmer actually achieves is called a yield gap. Our research is to try to determine why farmers aren’t producing as much yield as they’d like.”

The three-year study is a regional project headed by lead researchers Shawn Conley of the University of Wisconsin in Madison and Patricio Grassini with the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Lindsey said. The project involves university researchers from eight other states including Ohio, she said.

The project involves surveying growers to look at yield and management data from soybean fields in the 10 states from the 2014 and 2015 growing seasons, Lindsey said. The goal is to collect data from 270 Ohio soybean fields that look at yield and other agronomic numbers, she said.

All individual farmers’ data from the survey will be kept confidential, Lindsey said.

“With that data, we could then conduct an in-depth analysis of what on-farm factors might be causing a yield gap on producer farms,” she said. “We intend to provide annual reports to all participating crop producers informing them of what factors we may identify that, based on our analysis of the data collected from farms, are likely limiting growers from achieving soybean yields closer to the yield potential that is likely possible on their farms.

“We hope to document production practices such as soybean varieties, planting date and seeding row widths and will also look at weather patterns and yields.”

“Our goal is to use the data growers supply to help them get soybean yields on their farm fields that, in the future, will be closer to the potential soybean yields that are possible on those fields, once they know what production system factors are holding back their current soybean yields,” Lindsey said. “Participating farmers will get a summary of the results from Ohio.

“The survey responses will help us improve recommendations for Ohio soybean growers.”

In Ohio, the project is being conducted with funding from the Ohio Soybean Council and the North Central Soybean Research Program, she said.

Farmers interested in participating in the study can contact Lindsey by email at for a paper copy of the survey or can fill out the online survey at

Tracy Turner
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Laura Lindsey