Agroecology 2 min

Soybean production: a climate compatible with self-sufficiency on the European continent

PRESS RELEASE - Soybean acreage in Europe has been increasing continuously for the past 20 years, but imports still account for the majority of the continent's consumption. AgroParisTech and INRAE teamed up to assess the capacity of the European continent to become self-sufficient in soybeans, taking into account climate change. Their scientists developed projection models based on global agronomic and climate databases. The results, published on 7 April in Nature Food, show that Europe could achieve 50% to 100% self-sufficiency if 4% to 11% of European cropland were devoted to soybeans. Such an expansion would have significant economic and environmental benefits and reduce the use of nitrogen fertilizers.

Published on 08 April 2022

illustration Soybean production: a climate compatible with self-sufficiency on the European continent
© Pixabay

Currently, Europe imports nearly 90% of the soybeans it consumes, mostly from the United States and Brazil, mainly for animal feed. Although the area under soybean cultivation has quadrupled on the continent in 12 years, from 1.2 Mha in 2004 to 5 Mha in 2016, it represented only 1.7% of total European cultivated area in 2016.

Yet local soybean cultivation has many economic and environmental advantages. Like other legumes, it fixes nitrogen in the soil thanks to symbiotic bacteria living in its roots, which is beneficial for the following crop and reduces the use of nitrogen fertilizers and their environmental impact. Moreover, the reduction of imports would reduce the cost and pollution associated with them. That is why researchers from AgroParisTech and INRAE set out to explore whether the European continent could become self-sufficient in soybeans, and whether climate change would be a help, or on the contrary, a hindrance, to this crop in Europe over the next few decades.

To do so, they developed a modelling approach based on the joint use of global agronomic and climatic databases and machine learning algorithms. Thanks to this, they were able to make continent-wide soybean yield projections directly from the available data, according to different crop area scenarios and based on forecasts of present and future climate conditions.

Self-sufficiency achievable with 11% of European cropland devoted to soy

The results show that the European agricultural area suitable for soybean cultivation is much higher than the area currently harvested. Projections indicate an average yield of 2 tonnes per hectare under current climatic conditions, even without irrigation or fertilizer, and it would increase with future climatic conditions by +0.4 to +0.6 tonnes per hectare in 2050 and 2090. Projections also show a shift of the most productive areas from the south of the European continent to the north and east due to climate change.

With a constant need for soybeans, the results suggest that soybean self-sufficiency of 50 to 100% is achievable in Europe, under current and future climates, if 4 to 11% of the cultivated land was devoted to soybeans. This would require an increase in crop area by a factor of 2 to 3, or 5 to 6, for a 50% or 100% self-sufficiency rate respectively. Assuming that fertilizers are not used on soybeans, this increase would cut back the use of nitrogen fertilizers by 4 to 17% on the European continent.


Guilpart, N., Iizumi, T. & Makowski, D. Data-driven projections suggest large opportunities to improve Europe’s soybean self-sufficiency under climate change. Nat Food (2022). DOI :

Learn more


Understanding soybean biology better to boost production in France and Europe

To gain in protein autonomy, Europe is working to step up its soybean production. Implementing new cropping strategies requires a better understanding of soybean biology and a broader range of varietal maturity. Those are the findings of a joint study carried out by scientists from INRAE’s Agroecology, Innovation and Territories research unit in Occitanie-Toulouse, the University of Washington, and Toulouse INP-ENSAT (School of Agricultural and Life Sciences), published on 29 January 2020 in Frontiers in Plant Science.

01 April 2020

Climate change and risks

Impacts on agriculture of higher levels of atmospheric CO2

PRESS RELEASE - The response of plants to increased levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the atmosphere caused by greenhouse gas emissions will, like their sensitivity to future variations in temperature and rainfall resulting from climate change, be a critical factor for agricultural productivity and the sustainability of agrifood systems in years to come. Despite this fact, not all modelling scenarios for the impacts of climate change on agriculture take the effects of the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere into account. Now, through a meta-analysis of 228 scientific publications, an international team led by the JRC (Joint Research Centre) in Italy and members of the Agricultural Models Intercomparison Project (AgMIP), including researchers from INRAE and UVSQ, has confirmed the necessity of including the effects of increased atmospheric CO2 in all scenarios to achieve greater robustness and accuracy in modelling. The results of the study appeared in Nature Food on 11 December 2020.

14 December 2020