Research Highlights

Research Highlights
Protein & Oil Testing Helps Guide Seed Selection

By Barb Baylor Anderson

Compositional quality – protein and oil content – in soybean varieties has been trending down in Illinois, as well as in many other soybean-growing states. In research funded by the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) checkoff program, agronomists gather protein and oil data from varieties in the University of Illinois field trials to help raise awareness of soybean composition.

“We have been collecting samples and analyzing protein and oil data for about 20 years, and providing the results to ISA, seed companies and farmers,” says Darin Joos, University of Illinois crop science principal research specialist. “The data make our variety trials more robust and are an unbiased source of information to help farmers select varieties more easily.”

The information is available through the website,

Most recently, the ISA checkoff program has been using the data as part of its High Yield + Quality (HY+Q) program. The goal is to increase soybean value from seed to feed.

“Improving amino acid, protein and oil levels will increase soybean value,” says Linda Kull, ISA ag innovations director. “Our message to soybean farmers is that by selecting high-quality varieties with better amino acid, protein and oil levels while maintaining soybean yield goals, they will support our largest market, the livestock market.”

Since soy inclusion in feed rations has dropped about 70 percent in the last 30 years and U.S. farmers lose about $600 million in basis annually, HY+Q has shared its value findings with livestock producers and seed suppliers. HY+Q data show billions of dollars sit unrecognized in value differences among varieties. All totaled, a $1.2 billion difference in value potential exists at the variety level if the bottom 90 percent of soybeans improved to the same average value as the top 10 percent.

“Raising industry awareness of uncompensated value of amino acids and oil can help us reclaim lost market opportunities by encouraging and supporting farmers to take both yield and livestock feed value into consideration when selecting soybean varieties, and by working with seed companies to incorporate quality traits into their breeding and marketing programs,” says Kull.

ISA hopes to make additional progress in highlighting the issue through a new variety value score and by using variety-level comparison tools to connect soybean farmer success directly with livestock producer success. Soybean farmers can easily compare variety composition and single out those high-yielding varieties and increase livestock sector demand and profits by reviewing the University of Illinois variety trial data and the variety rankings at

ISA also seeks soybean farmers each year to send in harvested samples for protein, amino acid and oil analysis. ISA shares the data confidentially with farmers who participate. Details are found at

Published: Aug 11, 2020

The materials on SRIN were funded with checkoff dollars from United Soybean Board and the North Central Soybean Research Program. To find checkoff funded research related to this research highlight or to see other checkoff research projects, please visit the National Soybean Checkoff Research Database.