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Crop report - A very good year for soybeans in 2021

21 Dec 2021

Increasing the competitiveness and sustainability of oilseed production

​​​​​​ Sharing information from producer to consumer


Paris, December 21, 2021 - Terres Inovia, the technical institute for professionals in the vegetable oil and protein and hemp sectors, and Terres Univia, the vegetable oil and protein interprofessional organization, have unveiled the results of the 2021 soybean harvest and the outlook for the 2022 sowing season. The institute estimates the average national yield at 29 q/ha in 2021, up 13% compared to the five-year average, and the surface area at 157,000 ha, i.e. 14% more than five years ago. The political will shown by the French Protein Plan offers good prospects for soya and supports the dynamics of this crop. The upcoming CAP (2023-2027) will strengthen the means provided to the crop through the first pillar by an eco-regime system and by a sectoral coupled aid.

Regional focus

In the historical basins, yields are good in 2021. In the South-West, yields are estimated at an average of 30 q/ha, exceeding the results of 2015 and 2017, and ranging from 23 q/ha under rainfed (or dry) conditions to 38 q/ha under irrigated conditions. In the Bourgogne Franche-Comté region, yields are in line with the national average at 29 q/ha, with better results for sowing at the end of April and beginning of May (35-40 q/ha). The Alsatian harvests should be between 35 and 40 q/ha, as in the Rhône-Alpes region, which is a very good performance for this basin.
In the new production basins, yields are heterogeneous. In Auvergne, the average is close to the national average, or even exceeds it (30-32 q/ha). In the north-western quarter of France, the results range from 10 to 40 q/ha with an average of 27 q/ha, mainly due to significant losses at emergence.

Significant emergence losses

Despite good preparation and sowing conditions, significant emergence losses of 20-40% were observed in western and southern France. This was mainly due to the cool temperatures in May, which led to slow emergence and made the soybeans more susceptible to early cycle pests (birds, game and seed flies).

Good health status

The health status of the soybeans was generally good. Except for the beginning of the cycle, soybeans were spared from pests. The presence of diseases was heterogeneous due to the humid summer conditions. The historical basins, and particularly the South-West, were impacted by sclerotinia, especially in the Gers and Lot-et-Garonne. The variability of attacks is mainly due to the frequency of return to the plot of host crops (rape, soya, sunflower...), the rainfall and the more or less important correspondence between flowering and sporulation of the fungus. It should be remembered that the use of integrated pest management methods allows effective control of the disease.
In addition, harvesting conditions were favourable in the South-West but difficult in the North because of the rainfall in September and October and a sometimes delayed maturity.

A favourable economic climate

Whether rainfed or irrigated, changes in the economic context should lead to a marked increase in soybean gross margins between 2020 and 2021, estimated at +38% for the same range of yields. For a selling price of between 400 and 500 €/t, the gross margin for irrigated soya would be around 1100 €/ha and 760 €/ha for rainfed soya. Controlling the sowing date and the choice of variety are two crucial elements for securing the harvest and limiting drying costs that are increasing due to the rise in energy prices.
For the 2022 campaign, in the context of a sharp increase in the cost of fertilisers, soybeans will be able to make the most of their independence from nitrogenous fertilisers. The positive economic effects of the soybean precedent on maize will also be reinforced. For example, the cultivation of soybeans allows a saving of 30 to 50 units of nitrogen in the nitrogen fertilization of the following maize compared to a previous maize crop (i.e. a saving of 30 to 60 €/ha in costs). In addition, its low residues make it possible to reduce the cost of establishing the following crop.
Finally, the market tension on non-GMO imported soybean meal is very strong in Europe. Thus, the price difference between non-GMO and standard (i.e. GMO) imported 48% (protein) soybean meal exceeds +450 €/t in the current 2021/2022 campaign, whereas it was between +100 and +150 €/t of meal between 2012 and 2020. This trend reinforces the interest in developing and consolidating a sustainable French traced soybean sector, for the benefit of French food sovereignty.

A vast multi-annual agronomic observatory Cap Protéines

Each year, many soybean plots are visited by Terres Inovia during the campaign and during sanitary surveys carried out at the end of the cycle. In 2021, within the framework of the project "Increasing the competitiveness and sustainability of oilseed production" of the Cap Protéines programme, a network of 12 multi-year agronomic observatories was monitored, i.e. 185 plots representative of a production context and supported by at least one trial serving as a support for one or more local issues. The ambition is to support farmers and increase the surface area, so as to reach the objective of 250,000 ha in 2025 set by Terres Univia and the entire sector.

Consumption: soya, favoured by young people

Results of the study on the place of legumes in the eating habits and attitudes of the French carried out by CREDOC for Terres Univia in 2021(1)

Dessert, pancakes, juice, tofu... Soya, in all its forms, is consumed slightly less than legumes in general: 43% of French people usually eat soya and 11% say they eat it at least once a week; 48% of French people say they eat legumes at least once a week.

However, this bean is very popular with the youngest people. Indeed, soya is widely consumed by the under-34s: at least two or three times a month by 32% of 25-34 year olds and 26% of 15-24 year olds, compared with 10% of 55-64 year olds. Although soya has not yet become part of the eating habits of all generations, its increased consumption by younger people offers very good growth prospects for this legume.

As with other legumes, soya is appreciated by younger people for its taste (45% of respondents), its high protein content (43%) and its ease of preparation (33%).

(1) This study, carried out as part of the major annual CRÉDOC survey on food behaviour in France between April and May 2021, was designed within the framework of Cap Protéines and more specifically within the "Sharing information from producer to consumer" project.

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