History of Soybean Yields and Yield Research (10 BCE to 2021)

Wiliam Shurtleff, Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-948436-47-2

Publication Date: 2021 Aug. 21

Number of References in Bibliography: 2365

Earliest Reference: 10 BCE

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Brief Chronology/Timeline of Soybean Yields and Yield Research

1 bushel of soybeans weighs 60 pounds or 27.24 kilograms.

A yield of 60 bu/acre = 4035.06 kg/ha

10 BCE – In China, the Fan Shengzi shu [The book of Fan Shengzhi (on agriculture)] states that with proper care, the yield [of soybeans] from a good field may attain 10 shi per mou [equivalent to 36.5 bushels/acre or 2.7 metric tons/hectare] from poor land up to 5 shi (1 shi = 16.7 liters).

Note: This is the earliest document seen that gives soybean yield.

1658 – The next Chinese-language document that gives soybean yield is the Zhangshi bu nongshu [Mr. Zhang's supplement to the agricultural treatise]. It states that by following five basic principles, you will get a seed yield of 3 dou/mou (about 60 liters per 1/6 acre, or 360 liters per acre, or 10.2 bushels per acre).

1854 – T.V. Peticolas, writing from Ohio, states: “I planted eight rows thirty yards long, the rows two feet apart, and the Beans six inches apart in the rows. They produced about half a bushel of dry seed, which would be about sixteen bushels to the acre. In good ground, I have no doubt they could be made to yield twenty bushels.”

Note: This is the earliest Western document seen that gives soybean yield.

1861 Dec. – Writing from Cote-d’Or, France, Mr. Durupt, states (in French): At the end of August he had a perfect harvest and 30 plants yielded about 5 liters of soybeans. “I have the strong conviction, cultivated on a large scale, would give the best results. I will conduct the experiment.”

1875 March 10 – Some selling soybeans liked to exaggerate their yield. In an advertisement in the Atlanta Constitution, the Southern Seed & Plant Co. of Gallatin, Tennessee writes: “Japan Peas [Soybeans] – 200 bushels per acre on common land; unequaled for stock or table use; grows on upright stalks. 15 cts [cents] per paper, 50 cts per pint, 80 cts per quart.”

1876 Feb. 26 – Prof. Friedrich Haberlandt, in an early article in the Wiener Landwirthschaftliche Zeitung (Viennese Agricultural Newspaper) measures yield by saying how many soybeans were produced from one plot of soybeans. For example: Plot 2, containing 25 plants, yielded seeds that weighed 336.5 gm.

1925 – Average soybean yield in the United States is 11.7 bushels per acre (USDA statistics).

1940 – Average soybean yield in the United States is about 16.2 bushels per acre.

1940 – The world’s first “soybean yield contest” is held in Indiana started by the Indiana Corn Growers’ Association and Keller Beeson; only six soybean growers participate. 16 soybean growers participate in 1941, increasing to 51 in 1942 (Tipton Daily Tribune. 1940 June 6, p. 1; Beeson 1943).

1941 – The first annual “soybean yield contest” is held in Iowa. It is sponsored by the Iowa Corn and Small Grain Growers association (Courier. 1941 July 21, p. 14).

1941 – The first “soybean yield contest” is held in Illinois. It is sponsored by the Illinois Crop Improvement council. The results are announced in early Feb. 1942. The winner harvested 50 bushels per acre (Daily Pantagraph. 1942 Feb. 4, p. 10).

1945 June - Soybean Digest reports (p. 18) that the Illinois 10-acre soybean contest has been running now for four years. J.C. Hackleman, professor of crops extension, may have helped organize it.

In Sept. 1945 Soybean Digest reports (p. 72) that 109 “contestants from 17 counties have enrolled in the 1945 Nebraska soybean yield contest.”

In Jan. 1946 Soybean Digest reports (p. 28): “Lyle Palmer, Keota, Iowa, high school senior, has secured a 43.23 bushel per acre yield from a field of 1945 Lincoln [soybean variety]. The certified seed came from the field with which his father, Doyle Palmer, won the Iowa state soybean yield contest in 1944. Lyle topped his dad's championship yield, which was 37.59 bushels, in winning this year's contest sponsored by the local chapter of the Future Farmers of America.”

1948 Feb. 28 – Earliest document seen that mentions a soybean yield contest in Canada (Windsor Daily Star {Essex, Ontario}, p. 5, col. 8). It states:

“Top places in the Ontario Crop Improvement Association's high yield soybean contest were won by Essex and Kent County men.” The top four places were named. Fred Newcombe, of Blenheim, placed first with a yield score of 100 and yield per acre count of 40.56 bushels; he won $100. William Pajot, of River Canard, was second with 36.18 bu/acre, and a prize of $60.

1954 Sept. – The first person to top the yield of 100 bushels per acre is a grower who wins a contest in Japan with 100.9 bushels per acre (Soybean News, p. 3-4).

1961 – The 60 bushels of soybeans per acre yield barrier is first broken by Marvin Flint of Indiana. He won the 1961 Indiana 5-Acre Soybean Yield contest with 60.3 bushels an acre (Soybean Digest, Jan. 1962, p. 5).

1965 – John Reiser of Illinois produces 73.5 bushels of soybeans per acre on 5 acres in a contest – a U.S. national record.

1966 Feb. – The first National Soybean Yield Contest is announced by Soybean Digest. It is sponsored by Elanco Soybean Products Co. Many prizes are offered to many winners on many different levels: “A 14-foot, self-propelled McCormick International(R) 403 combine will go to the national winner;…” In “the past decade while cotton yields have gone up 54%, and corn yields 58%, soybean yields have crept up only 14%.” This “first national soybean yield contest is not intended to replace or compete with existing soybean yield contests conducted in Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Delaware, and other states. ‘We know that growers will continue to enter and support those contests.’”

1966 – John Reiser of Illinois produces 82.7 bushels per acre on 5 acres in a soybean yield contest – a U.S. national record.

1969 – The 100 bushels of soybeans per acre yield barrier is first broken by George Kimmons of Ozark, Missouri who wins the Third National Soybean Yield Contest with 109.64 bushels of soybeans per acre (Soybean Digest, Feb. 1969, p. 18, 20).

1970 – Congress passes the Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA), providing companies with a clear incentive to develop proprietary soybean breeding programs. The number of private soybean breeding companies starts to increase dramatically (Kohn 1990, p. 7).

In 1961 there were 38 public and only 1 commercial breeders; in 1979 there were 230 public and 36 commercial breeders (Judd 1979, p. 81-86).

1982 – Average soybean yield in the United States is about 37.6 bushels per acre.

1990 – Average soybean yield in the United States is about 32.4 bushels per acre.

1994 – Average soybean yield in the United States is about 41.9 bushels per acre.

1994 – The highest state yield ever achieved was 50.5 bushels per acre produced by Iowa farmers this year (Gibson & Benson 2005)

1996 – Average soybean yields in Canada are about 41.3 bushels per acre.

1996 – The first Roundup-Ready soybeans, genetically engineered by Monsanto Co., are planted in the USA, with U.S. government approval. These seeds are genetically altered to be resistant to the company's popular glyphosate-based herbicide, Roundup. According to Monsanto, roughly one million acres were planted in the U.S. in 1996.

According to preliminary data collected from more than 75 locations in the Midwest, soybeans growers who planted RR soybean varieties and used Roundup as a weed control agent, experienced a yield advantage of approximately 5 percent, or nearly two bushels per acre.

“In addition to the crop yield data, Monsanto surveyed more than 1,000 farmers in November who used RR soybeans. These soybeans met or exceeded the expectations of 90 percent of the growers. More good news for the company was the finding that 79 percent said Roundup Ready soybeans represented a 'good' or 'very good' value and that 88 percent will either 'probably' or 'definitely' replant them next year” (Bluebook Update, April 1997, p. 1-2).

2001 – "The estimated yield for Brazilian soybeans is 41.6 to 45 bushels per acre while the U.S. average yield has been around 38 bushels" (Ag Decision Maker, Oct.; Ontario Soybean Growers Newsletter, May 2003, p. 8)

2001 – “A 2001 study of Iowa farms conducted by Iowa State University extension economist, Michael Duffy, found that GM [Genetically Modified] soybeans yielded 43.4 bushels per acre; this is less than conventional soybeans which yielded 45 bushels per acre” (The Non-GMO Report, Feb. 2006. p. 1-2).

Click here to download the full text to open and read book History of Soybean Yields and Yield Research (10 BCE to 2021)