Conventional Soybeans are a Numbers Game

“Non-GMO is all about profitability,” says Adam Chappell, a farmer from Cotton Plant, Ark. ( Chris Bennett )

Pencil to paper, non-GMO soybeans mean profit for producer Adam Chappell. Non-GMO crops make up 90% of his grain acreage, and he often sources low-cost seed from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s Soybean Breeding Program.

The Division of Agriculture program has produced 59 varieties since its inception in 1990, and 22 varieties during the past 15 years.

All About Profitability

Near Cotton Plant, Ark., Chappell and his brother, Seth, grow corn, cotton, rice, soybeans and a mix of small grains on 8,000 acres.

In the past decade, their area became a hot zone of Palmer amaranth. In 2009, Chappell began smothering pigweed presence with cover crops, which opened the door to conventional soybeans.

“Non-GMO is all about profitability,” Chappell explains. “Take a public soybean like UA 5014C that yields so well and can be saved. The next year, the only costs you’ve got are whatever the market value of the soybean seed is and getting it custom cleaned.”

Chappell planted 2,000 acres of soybeans in 2019 and estimates a 40% to 50% reduction in costs.  After insect treatments and weed sprays, he hit yields in the mid-60s.

Focus On Weed Control

The first question University of Arkansas Extension soybean specialist Jeremy Ross gets from growers is: What is the yield?

“Overall, our soybean varieties are not bin busters, but they’re sure middle to better-than-middle on yield,” he describes.

Low seed cost is a major reason farmers choose conventional soybean varieties, Ross says, as seed for Division of Agriculture conventionals is about half of major company prices. “We’re talking $30 to $35 per bag of non-GMO,” he says.

However, Ross says, weed control and timely herbicide applications are essential for these soybeans.

“I caution people to be timely and prefer not to plant non-GMOs on problematic fields,” he says. 

To watch videos and learn more about the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s soybean breeding program, visit