Although soybean composition has been studied and debated for decades, little progress has been made to consistently bring protein and oil levels up to the 35-percent protein and 19-percent oil sought by soybean end users. In fact, protein and oil have declined in recent years.

Illinois Soybean Association is working to reverse that trend, encouraging Illinois soybean farmers to consider protein and oil content in 2014 seed selection.

While elevators don’t specifically dock delivered soybean loads for low protein and oil, processors who purchase from those elevators pay less for lagging protein and oil content. The result is a hidden discount in the prices we receive.

ISA held an industry-wide roundtable in Chicago in June to discuss the issue. Unlike previous approaches, “Moving the Quality Needle: Working Together to Improve Soybean Composition” included everyone along the supply chain — seed companies, grain handlers, processors, animal nutritionists, university reps, soybean farmers and others.

Talk centered on ways to help Illinois soybeans stay competitive by increasing protein and oil levels. I consider the roundtable to be a first step in our new approach to engage, educate and influence the industry.

ISA looks to leverage the heightened awareness and nurture relationships to actually move the needle on soybean composition. Our goal is to ensure Illinois soybean farmers grow soybeans that are not only high-yielding, but competitive in the marketplace.

That effort continues this fall with a program to measure protein and oil in 2013 harvested soybeans. ISA last fall partnered with Centrec Consulting Group to test protein and oil content of about 500 soybean samples from 97 elevators across the state.

While compositional quality studies are performed each year on soybean varieties grown, a statewide study previously had not been conducted.

Elevator sampling results were reported for the nine U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Statistical Districts. The 2012 results showed no district met industry standards for both protein and oil together.

Analysis found a state average of 34.3-percent protein and 19-percent oil. Only one of the districts reported 35-percent protein.

At participating elevators this fall, personnel are asked to collect up to six soybean samples. ISA will provide prepaid collection kits and cover the costs of testing protein and oil.

By continuing this program, we will get more insight on Illinois and regional trends. Specific farm and elevator data are kept confidential.

Elevators willing to contribute samples should contact Pat Herron at (217) 352-1190 or pherron@centrec.com.

It will take more than a few farmers growing high-component soybeans for the value to trickle down to our level. Every load we drop at the elevator that meets industry standards will increase profitability for all of us in the long run, making Illinois the preferred state for high-quality soybeans. Take note of your yields, and the protein and oil of the seed varieties you choose.

You can input the values into the Agricultural Crush Calculator at www.cmegroup.com to determine your Estimated Process Value. And if you want to know how Illinois soybeans compare, check the QualiMap Tool Kit at www.ilsoy.org/isa/composition/qualimap-tool-kit.

Select your 2014 soybean seed wisely and have a safe harvest.