Researchers help as Tennessee soybean production grows

Researchers help as Tennessee soybean production grows

As you drive through Tennessee, you see lots of corn and cotton, but now soybeans are the volunteer state's largest row crop by a wide margin.

The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture does research to improve soybean seed varieties for farmers and create healthier food for consumers.

More than 1.5 million acres were harvested last fall.

"The revenue has been about $1 billion for this past year, which is the greatest total crop revenue for soybeans in the history of the state. Part of that came because of the high yield. The state averaged 48 bushels per acre in seed yield, which is extraordinary," said Dr. Vince Pantalone, of UT Agresearch.

Pantalone works to produce soybean varieties for farmers by crossing successful types that are high-yielding and disease resistant.

The UT Institute of Agriculture soybean breeding program was greatly aided in this effort by the Tennessee Soybean Promotions Board, which provided half the funds for a combine used for yield research.

"It has onboard booster and yield calibration equipment. And its very efficient, cleans out the seeds very well, so we're quite pleased to have that support.

Soybean prices are very good for farmers. That's a big reason for the high number of acres grown. The crop also remains relatively easy to produce in terms of soil prep.

Tennessee has an excellent climate for soybeans.

Pantalone is looking to improve the quality of what is grown.

He uses genetic data to track seed yield, protein and concentrations and other variable traits in beans.

Soybeans have lost a big share of the oil business because of concerns about trans-fats.

But now UT ag researchers look to develop a healthier soybean for consumers that our farmers can grow.

"What we are doing is we are creating a new soybean that essentially has the characteristics of olive oil. And it will have extraordinary oxidative stability. It will have no trans-fats and we're very excited about this," said Pantalone.

Farmers should be too with the prospect of another big year for soybean production in Tennessee.

It stands to reason it will be an increasing part of the agricultural landscape and used more in a healthy diet.

This report is from our partners at the UT Institute of Agriculture.

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