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The US soyabean industry’s carbon footprint has decreased significantly, according to new research by the United Soybean Board (USB) reported by SeedWorld.

In its recent Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), the USB reported a significant reduction in the global warming potential (GWP) profile of the sector – comprising whole soyabeans, soyabean meal and soyabean oil – compared to previous studies in 2015 and 2010, the 22 February report said.

Commissioned by the USB and the National Oilseed Processors Association (NOPA), the study evaluated environmental impact drivers, including soyabean cultivation and harvesting (such as herbicides, field operations and fertiliser), transportation and energy usage in processing.

“This research helps farmers better assess and understand soya’s contribution to environmental impacts throughout the life cycle of the entire soyabean value chain. Ultimately, data can competitively position our downstream products such as human foods, animal feeds, biofuels and other industrial applications,” USB CEO Lucas Lentsch was quoted as saying.

The USA is one of the leading global soyabean producers and the second largest exporter, with the sector contributing US$124bn to the US economy, according to the report.

Soyabeans also account for about 90% of US oilseed production in the agricultural sector.

Conducted by Sustainable Solutions Corporation (SSC), the LCA study analysed 2020 and 2021 data from 454 farms in 16 US states and 2021 operations data from 52 soyabean processors and 27 soyabean oil refiners in 18 states.

The study found a significant decrease in the carbon footprint of the soyabean industry in 2021 compared to 2015, including a 19% decrease for US soyabeans, a 6% decrease for US soyabean meal, a 22% decrease for US crude soyabean oil and an 8% decrease for US refined soyabean oil.

“US soyabean processors have committed to efficiencies across plant operations, manufacturing and transportation processes to improve environmental outcomes amid skyrocketing output,” NOPA president and CEO Kailee Tkacz Buller was quoted as saying.

Factors that contributed to the decrease in GWP included improved land management and soil health, increased land efficiency and yields, reduced pesticide application and energy consumption, and the introduction of advanced technologies in manufacturing, SeedWorld wrote.