In the past 10 years, soybean acreage in North America has jumped significantly. The U.S., for example, has expanded acreage by 20% to over 71 million. In Canada, the increase has been even more dramatic - from 1.28 million acres in 1988 to 2.42 million in 1998.

There are three main reasons for the increases, say farm management specialists Douglas Jose, University of Nebraska, and Colin Reesor, Ontario Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

1) Agronomic improvements.

2) Comparative economics.

3) Change in the U.S. federal ag policy.

In recent years, net returns per acre have equaled or exceeded the net returns from corn, particularly in non-irrigated situations.

In 1996, for example, Jose says Nebraska members of the Farm Business Association had per-acre net returns from non-irrigated soybeans of $140. The comparative figures for non-irrigated and irrigated corn were $71 and $54, respectively. Reesor points to similar results in Canada.

In addition, the lower inputs of fertilizer and chemicals used for soybeans make it a more environmentally compatible crop than corn.

Jose also says the change in the U.S. farm program has freed growers of the restrictions imposed by the previous program. As a result, many growers, including those in Canada, have returned to a crop rotation program with soybeans in the rotation.

In Canada, Group 0 varieties have provided the biggest boost for yield increases, Reesor adds.

(Douglas Jose, University of Nebraska; Colin Reesor, Ontario Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs)