Illinois soybean farmers are good stewards of their land. They support environmental sustainability through conservation practices that result in better water and air quality and improved soil health.

Field to Market: Environmental Results

ISA is member of Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, a diverse initiative that joins stakeholders from all levels of the supply chain to create sustainable outcomes for agriculture.  

Field to Market’s National Indicators Report analyzes U.S. sustainability trends over time. 

For soybeans, this report evaluates five indicators: land use, energy use, soil loss, irrigation water usage and greenhouse gas emissions. The 2016 report shows significant progress in all areas from 1980 to 2015.

More soybean production per acre

  • Total soybean production: +120%
  • Total planted acres +31%
  • Crop yields: +29%

Greater resource efficiency

  • Per bushel land use: -40%
  • Irrigation water use: -32%
  • Energy use: -35%
  • Greenhouse gas emissions: -38%

Water Quality: Management Strategies

Considering that 18 million people depend on the Mississippi River watershed for their water needs, Illinois farmers understand the importance of water quality. Fish species, migratory birds and other wildlife find their homes here as well.  

To protect this valuable resource, soybean growers participate in the Illinois Statewide Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS)

Best management practices (BMPs) in the NLRS include:




See how Illinois farmers are successfully putting these and other BMPs to work on their farms.

Water Quality: Partnerships

Illinois soybean farmers partner with the USDA in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) to:

  • Reduce total sediment loading 
  • Reduce phosphorous and nitrogen loading 
  • Increase native fish and mussel stocks in lower reaches of the river 
  • Increase populations of waterfowl and shorebirds

Water Quality: Fertilizer Management 

ISA supports 4R Nutrient Stewardship: the right fertilizer, at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place. The 4Rs help crop advisers and farmers enhance management and efficiency while keeping key nutrients in the root zone. 

The results? Reduced fertilizer costs and better downstream water quality miles away.

Conservation: Vulnerable Land

Illinois soybean growers are taking vulnerable land out of production through the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)—a U.S. government initiative that provides incentives to farmers to remove highly erodible land from production—helping protect America’s long-term capacity for producing food, fuel and fiber.

Conservation: Wetland Acreage

Near waterways and in significant watershed areas around the state, farmers have been slowly transitioning acreage from crop production and allowing it to return to its natural wetland state. The results:

  • Reduced nutrient loss
  • Return of natural foliage
  • Increased wildlife biodiversity 

ISA also supports efforts to encourage farmers to plant milkweed and other habitats for monarch butterflies and other pollinators.

Efficient Energy Use: Reduced Tillage

Illinois soybean farmers also take specific actions to improve energy efficiency, such as reduced tillage practices that reduce or eliminate plowing, saving fuel, reducing emissions and improving soil health.

Renewable Fuel: Biodiesel and the B20 Club

Soybeans grown in Illinois provide soybean oil for biodiesel fuel – a renewable, clean-burning alternative to petroleum diesel fuel. And farmers not only grow the soybeans, they contribute to cleaner air by fueling their farm equipment with biodiesel.

Through the B20 Club, the Illinois soybean checkoff program recognizes and supports Illinois-based fleets using B20, a blend of 20 percent biodiesel with petroleum diesel. This organization is a partnership between ISA and the American Lung Association in Illinois. Fifteen B20 Club members run more than 4,800 vehicles on B20 fuel, reducing CO2 emissions at a level equal to planting 234,279 trees.