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Soybeans: A Case Study in Climate Adaptation

Jasmine Spiess • February 20th, 2024.

Soybean Farming

Executive Summary

Climate change is accelerating — but its impacts on agriculture are not felt evenly and consistently in every location, by every crop, and in every season.

One of the world’s most critical commodities, soybeans, presents an interesting case study in not only climate risks, but climate resilience. Soybeans, used as everything from fuel to food to feedstuff, face significant climate risks, such as drought, shifting precipitation patterns, and heat.

Understanding these risks ahead of time enables those along the soybean value chain to prepare, and take action to mitigate them. Climate intelligence — technology that actionably forecasts climate change-fueled extreme weather events — helps growers and companies make more informed business decisions that prevent losses and capture opportunities. Here’s how.

How Climate Changes Affect Soybean Production — And How Companies Can Adapt

Climate change increases the prevalence and severity of drought in many drought-prone places, such as common growing regions of soybeans. Drought can reduce the pollen germination of soybeans by 20%, decrease seed quantity by 45%, and hurt seed oil content. Heat stress can also reduce germination rates during early growing stages.

Overall, these shifts have the potential to cut yields — which lessens profits and income for farmers, while raising prices for consumers.
Soybeans in Drought

Case Study: Volatility Disrupts 2023 Soybean Production in Brazil

In the soybean-growing Mato Grosso region of central Brazil, below-average rainfall, excessive heat, and low soil moisture levels represented a triple threat. Soybeans grown in the area are not drought-tolerant varieties, so the crop was vulnerable to these effects. Yield outlooks dropped.

Meanwhile, in the soybean-growing region of Rio Grande do Sul in the Southeast, excessive rainfall and subsequent flooding delayed soybean sowing. This threw off the seasonal schedules, as the crop missed the ideal weather window for proper plant growth, further delaying the planting of other crops.

How Climate Intelligence Could Have Helped

ClimateAi offers actionable climate intelligence via an AI-based platform that accounts for hundreds of climate, weather, and water variables to output best-in-class forecasts that enable businesses to adapt near-term operations and long-term strategy, as well as to identify opportunities.

ClimateAi’s models accurately forecast, up to six months in advance, these adverse weather events.

ClimateAi Hindcast for Soybeans in Brazil

If regional growers and companies that relied upon the region for sourcing had had this information, they would have been able to improve key decisions. For production, that can mean adapting in-season agriculture management decisions, such as adjusting planting schedules or investing in irrigation, to maintain yield; for retailers, that can mean finding new sourcing regions and contracting strategies to manage high costs in advance.

CAI Hindcast for Precipitation Soybeans Brazil

Climate intelligence doesn’t just show what’s coming for the season ahead; it can also show long-term persistence. For instance, if drought will prove to be a continuous concern in Central Brazil, they can invest in drought-resistant varieties that will maintain productivity.

Actionability: The Missing Piece

Climate intelligence not only forecasts and monitors key events, it also translates those events into actions — and their value. Different teams, with diverse responsibilities, can turn to climate intelligence to help make more informed, effective decisions that will provide the biggest return on investment.

Consider: A production team’s decisions differ from a sourcing team’s. But both are in charge of weather-dependent decisions. They can both use climate intelligence to understand the impact of a weather event and how to best respond. Plus, with information available months ahead of the event, they can prepare proactively.

Actions based on Climate Intelligence - Production

Sourcing Actions based on Climate Intelligence Insights

Soybeans aren’t the only crop that can benefit from climate intelligence. For all players along the agricultural value chain, three things are critical: having an understanding of specific risks; having a strategy to manage those risks; and deploying the right tools to help operationalize that strategy.

Want to learn more? Contact ClimateAi.

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