BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA — Queensland government scientists are working to double soybean production in high rainfall coastal and hinterland areas within three years, a move that could potentially spark further growth in what is currently a $30 million industry in existing and emerging crop regions in Bundaberg, Mackay and the Burdekin.

“This project is all about making soybeans and sugarcane the perfect partners in the paddock—growing the grain legume and sweetening the bottom line for sugarcane farmers,” said Mark Furner, minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and minister for Rural Communities in Queensland. “Soybeans complement sugarcane farming systems both agronomically and as an additional income stream, and there’s been a big increase in the use of soybean as a rotation crop in the sugar industry in the past decade.

“Queensland is well placed to meet a much higher demand for soybeans as a plant protein in the future, by increasing soybean cropping in sugarcane fallows."

Furner said that in the past five years, Queensland has produced an average of 21,680 tonnes of soybean per year with a gross value production of $14.5 million.

Moving forward, the projected future demand in the region is for 200,000 tonnes of soybean per year for proposed new Australian processing facilities.

“This project aims to increase average soybean production in Queensland’s high rainfall coastal areas by 100% by Sept. 30, 2024, through increased productivity and expanding the area planted,” Furner said.

To reach its goal, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Coastal Farming Systems team will plant commercial soybean varieties in focus paddocks in the three key regions. The Department will get a boost from a co-investment by the Grains Research and Development Corp. (GRDC).

Gillian Meppem, senior regional manager — North, at the GRDC, said the project is focused on taking research and development and delivering it to growers in a way that instills confidence in planting new or non-traditional crops in the coastal Queensland region.

“GRDC has been supportive of increasing grain production in non-traditional areas by ground-truthing or testing known research at local levels so growers and advisers understand how outcomes can be applied on-farm in different regions,” Meppem said. “Being part of this project with DAF is an opportunity to assist growers make informed on-farm decisions. We know canegrowers are interested in soybeans for the extra cashflow, weed control and nitrogen fixation benefits and for the fact they can also be a strategic break crop for diseases.”

Meanwhile, Neil Halpin, a principal farming systems agronomist with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, said the focus sites would be used as a practical learning experience for growers.

“For the soybean industry to expand and thrive in high rainfall coastal zones, growers need to fine tune their agronomic skills to ensure they can consistently produce a high-quality product,” Halpin said. “This project will develop a pool of experienced growers though upskilling on soybean agronomic practices, harvesting and storage skills. The key focus is achieving and maintaining high grain quality to ensure growers can optimize their product and guarantee the reliability and credibility of the soybean industry in these new and emerging cropping regions.”