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What's happening with the miracle crop?

The sight of soybeans glistening in the golden sun is enough to fire up any soybean farmer about high yields.

Soybeans have long been called the miracle crop for good reason. As the world's top provider of protein and oil, the crop is the darling of groups as diverse as dieticians and livestock feeders. Farmers love them, too, as their ability to fix nitrogen saves production costs right off the bat.

Yet, many farmers have wondered if soybeans are more mirage than miracle in recent years. Pests - like bean leaf beetles and soybean aphids - have boosted production costs. Diseases - like white mold and sudden death syndrome - have stymied yields. Last year, the specter of Asian soybean rust racing through the U.S. like a sharp yield-slicing scythe prompted many farmers to consider shifting to other crops.

Then, just when everyone was ready to count out soybeans, 2005 U.S. production posted a record 43.3- bushel-an-acre average yield. (Why do you think they call soybeans the miracle crop?)




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