Soybean Fields Then and Now


Warm temperatures forced me to break out my short pants for the weekend and my 9 year old daughter happened to notice an ugly scar on my right knee. She asked me how I got the scar and I started to tell her about my days wielding a bean hook and walking bean fields. As the conversation went on, I caught myself thinking about how there are processors still using Insta-Pro Intl equipment that was purchased 30 years ago but farming practices in America have drastically evolved and changed.

Do terms like: walking beans, bean hooks, volunteer corn, velvet leaf, milk weed, morning glory, cultivator, rotary hoe, pig weed, and foxtail bring back memories?  Have you ever had foxtail stuck to your socks?

In the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s, it was common practice for a herbicide like Treflan, Prowl, or Lasso to be applied and incorporated into the top few inches of the soil. Traditional Non-GMO soybean seed would be planted, pop through the soil, and get a good jump on the competing grass and broadleaf weeds. When conditions were suitable, out came the tractor with the rotary hoe and soon after the cultivator would sweep away and cover any weeds or grasses that may have survived the herbicide. In general, these practices were effective but nowhere near perfect.  A few weeks before the rows would close, bean walking crews would swarm the bean fields to manually cut down or pull any surviving weeds that would compete with the soybean plant for water and nutrients. Only the most resilient weeds survived to spread their seed and reproduce.

That was then.

Today most soybean fields are managed in a much different way.  The uses of biotech soybean seeds dominate most soybean fields here in the United States. Modern day soybean growers have overwhelmingly adopted glyphosate resistant technology as is common practice.  The herbicide resistant soybean seeds allow the plants to continue to grow and any weed or grass that comes up will be eliminated with one, two or three passes of Roundup (glyphosate) herbicide. No longer is there a need for rotary hoes, cultivators or bean walkers.  The treatment typically kills anything it comes in contact with EXCEPT the genetically resistant soybean plant. What is left in the field for harvest is a weed less field of GMO soybeans.

The days of fields planted with Non-GMO seed might be making a comeback.   According to articles in both The Des Moines Register and The Wall Street Journal farmers are seeing more profit by planting Non-GMO seed. While Non-GMO seed is still considered to be a niche market by large seed companies, it seems that market may not stay that way.

As discussed in a previous blog by Kevin Kacere, this market continues to expand and rise in popularity. Beyond Non-GMO, consumers are also looking for all natural and organic products and processors want chemical free methods of processing their soybeans to meet this growing demand. This is where Insta-Pro International can help. Insta-Pro Intl machines are well suited for the Non-GMO/organic markets because they use high shear extrusion and mechanical pressing to generate completely chemical-free soybean meals and oils. Our machines along with our process technologies offer processors solutions to the increasing demand for Non-GMO/organic crops and organic fed meat, milk and eggs. With these markets rising in popularity producers and processors who provide consumers with Non-GMO/organic options will find themselves in a very profitable business.

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