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An opportunity provided by climate change: Soy production to increase in Europe in the future

An opportunity provided by climate change: Soy production to increase in Europe in the future

By Leibniz-Zentrum für

Climate change requires a rethink of crop production toward varieties and crops that are better adapted to heat and drought. Soybean is an arable crop that thrives in warm conditions and provides itself with nitrogen, an important plant nutrient that farmers would otherwise have to provide through fertilizer.

Soybeans are already grown in France, Italy, Serbia, Romania and Austria, often under artificial irrigation. "Expanding soybean cultivation in previously cooler regions expands the possibilities for farmers to make their crop rotations more diverse and thus mitigate the risk of weather-related yield losses and increase biodiversity," explains Prof. Claas Nendel, head of the study. It helps that the soy plant, as a legume, is able to absorb nitrogen directly from the air, without needing fertilization. This also reduces negative environmental impacts, such as the release of excess fertilizer into groundwater.

Breeding must target heat stress

"Under warmer conditions, soybeans yield more than was previously possible with soy varieties adapted to cool temperatures in Germany," explains Dr. Moritz Reckling, who conducts research on legume cultivation at ZALF. Generally, soybeans need a lot of water at the beginning of the season, but dry weather for ripening and harvesting.

Since soybeans in Germany are in the field until October, precipitation at harvest time has so far been a major risk. The simulations with plant growth models also show that the previous production risks due to cool and  will tend to decrease in the future, while drought and  in particular will grow into a serious risk.

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