Producers surveyed across the U.S. intend to plant a record high 91 million acres of soybeans in 2022, up 4% from last year, according to March’s Prospective Plantings report released by USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Soybeans are the no. 1 U.S. agricultural export, accounting for about 18% of the country's agricultural exports.
Polly Ruhland, CEO of the United Soybean Board, says most of the country’s 515,000 soybean farmers are increasingly embracing digital transformation.
Ruhland says tools like moisture sensors, smart irrigation, autonomous and GPS-enabled tractors, drones and satellite imagery help produce more soy on the same amount of land.
“Farmers who I work with every day tell me how the use of precision agriculture allows them to improve the efficiency, quality and consistency of their crops,” says Ruhland. She adds that this digital transformation is good for the planet, its growing population and farmers’ bottom lines.
“Digital technology, such as smart irrigation, is helping to improve the nutrient efficiency and quality of our soil, boost crop productivity and conserve water,” says Ruhland. “It also allows farmers to use pesticides more precisely for a healthier environment and that provides a more reliable and sustainable food source is essential to feed our growing population, which is estimated to surpass 9 billion by 2050.”
She sees farmers creating true sustainability systems when technology is used to treat soil precisely as it needs and coupled with genetic engineering to make seeds more resilient to natural disruptors. Technology also helps save time and improve efficiencies on the farm.
“Deploying drones helps soybean farmers see their fields from the sky, which saves them time since they don’t have to walk the field,” says Ruhland. “Farmers like Rochelle Krusemark in Minnesota used to spend more than 30 hours a week scouting her 160-acre field, but now she can analyze the same crops in about 15 minutes.”
Roman Medvediev, chief operating officer at EOS Data Analytics, says after adding a crop monitoring platform on one soybean farm in Karaga, Ghana, the farmer has access to information such as acreage, location, weather, crop growth stage and satellite image of the fields.
Last December, EOS partnered with Epik Systems to bring satellite technology to farmlands that haven’t deployed precision farming and carbon monitoring to provide small-scale farmers with valuable data in precision farming and greenhouse gas (GHG) tracking, measuring and mitigation. The technology will initially roll out in the U.S. and Mexico.
Kevin Hannah, Epik vice president of product marketing, said these small-scale farmers are challenged to produce more without access to the digital transformation tools necessary to sustainably.
“As an agricultural industry and as leaders, we need to remain fiercely committed to improving our environmental, social and economic sustainability if we want to utilize digital transformation to reimagine the future of food,” adds Ruhland.
Meagan Kaiser, United Soybean Board director and soil scientist, says as a fifth-generation family farm in Bowling Green, Mo., adopting technology has never been a question.
“Digitization has not only increased sustainability and data-driven efficiency, but it has helped us build an operation that can be passed down to our kids," says Kaiser. “We’re thinking about future generations with every decision we make. You can’t attract smart young people to come back and farm if you don’t have the connectivity we’ve all gotten used to.”