The protein and oil contents of the 1998 U.S. soybean crop both were at 10-year highs, a finding that could strengthen export sales.

The annual United Soybean Board-American Soybean Association Grain Quality Survey revealed that '98-crop U.S. soybeans averaged 0.7% higher in protein and oil than the survey's 10-year average. Average yield of 48% protein meal was estimated at 43.4 lbs/bu; the average oil yield, 11.2 lbs/bu.

The Iowa State University Grain Quality Laboratory, which does the analysis, tested 2,035 soybean samples from 29 states. Growers were asked to submit samples from early and late harvests. In every state, the protein and oil difference between early and late beans was less than 0.2%.

Charles Hurburgh, Iowa State ag engineer and lab director, says last year's high quality was due to the weather. "We didn't have our first frost until late October," says Hurburgh.

He says information from the survey will be shared with buyers from several Asian countries.

"The Asian market consumes more soybeans than it can produce, and historically it has been fussier about the quality of the soybeans it imports," says Hurburgh.

The '98 U.S. soybean crop is expected to be higher in quality than the South American crop. If so, demand for U.S. beans could increase, he says.