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Once Deemed Unthinkable, Soybean Farming is Taking Hold Near the Arctic Tundra

Soybean farming, something once considered impossible for the region, is taking hold across the plains of northern Russia near the Arctic tundra, as years of rising temperatures are transforming permafrost into arable soil.

Climate change is driving global crop production ever northerward, as wine grape production expands into the UK, and U.S. corn production has spread into North Dakota, but at the same time drought is disrupting agricultural production across other regions this year in Uruguay, New Zealand, Vietnam, and across Europe.

In northern Russia, agronomist Gennady Bochkovsky is working with farming company TulamashAgro to replace peas with soybeans on 3,460 acres with initial success. The latest varieties can grow if temperatures rise above 50 degrees Fahrenheit with about 100 days of favorable weather, while researchers in Siberia have collaborated with the Chuvashia Agricultural Research Institute to develop a variety that can grow even with two meters of permafrost below the topsoil.

More than 1.1 million acres of soybeans were planted in central Russia last year - an 18-fold increase over the past decade, and 7 percent of the total cropland in the region. However, the country still relies on imports for about 1 million tons of soy, indicating that there is still a supply gap to be filled.

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