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European soybean to benefit people and the environment

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • Jose L. Rotundo
  • Ryan McCormick
  • Sandra K. Truong
  • David Styles
  • Jose A. Gerde
  • Victoria Janes-Bassett
  • Jennifer Logue
  • Paolo Annicchiarico
  • Chris de Visser
  • Alice Dind
  • Louise Dye
  • Marta S. Lopes
  • Joke Pannecoucque
  • Moritz Reckling
  • Jonathan Rushton
  • Nathaniel Schmid
  • Ian Shield
  • Marco Signor
  • Carlos D. Messina
Article number7612
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/03/2024
<mark>Journal</mark>Scientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Europe imports large amounts of soybean that are predominantly used for livestock feed, mainly sourced from Brazil, USA and Argentina. In addition, the demand for GM-free soybean for human consumption is project to increase. Soybean has higher protein quality and digestibility than other legumes, along with high concentrations of isoflavones, phytosterols and minerals that enhance the nutritional value as a human food ingredient. Here, we examine the potential to increase soybean production across Europe for livestock feed and direct human consumption, and review possible effects on the environment and human health. Simulations and field data indicate rainfed soybean yields of 3.1 ± 1.2 t ha−1 from southern UK through to southern Europe (compared to a 3.5 t ha−1 average from North America). Drought-prone southern regions and cooler northern regions require breeding to incorporate stress-tolerance traits. Literature synthesized in this work evidenced soybean properties important to human nutrition, health, and traits related to food processing compared to alternative protein sources. While acknowledging the uncertainties inherent in any modelling exercise, our findings suggest that further integrating soybean into European agriculture could reduce GHG emissions by 37–291 Mt CO2e year−1 and fertiliser N use by 0.6–1.2 Mt year−1, concurrently improving human health and nutrition.