It’s Illinois’ turn to wear the soybean crown. Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Illinois Soybean Association, the group is announcing an estimate 460.6 million bushels on 9.4 million acres, making an average yield of 49 bushels per acre. That compares to Iowa’s 415.3 million, 9.23 million, and 45, respectively. Bill Raben, a Ridgway farmer who chairs the association, says this sort of thing goes back and forth: “Usually, Illinois is one or two, and Iowa is either one or two. The last few years it’s been Iowa; we take advantage of our one out of every 10 years, it seems like,” Raben says.
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While Raben's group is eyeing a 600 million-bushel output by 2020, sheer numbers are not enough. “Our end users, our importers, the people that process our beans, tell us our quality is not good enough,” says Raben. “It’s lower than (that produced by) our South American friends, and we need to improve on doing a better job at getting additional protein and oil. That’s what they want: the component parts of the bean. Illinois has been focusing the last few years on educating and informing the farmers that protein and oil is a very viable part of our selection process of the varieties that we grow.”