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Barges, Trains and Trucks: Moving soybeans

Why is transportation for commodity crops so critical?

Infrastructure is critical to the functions of the country, in particular the shipment of commodity crops such as soybeans. This unit introduces students to several types of infrastructure that are important for the movement of soybeans from grower to processor to consumer. Students analyze data and calculate capacity for each method of transportation.


Teacher background

Transportation infrastructure is what connects U.S. soybean growers to the domestic and export market. Easy access to highways, rail and waterways allow for efficient transportation of soybeans by growers and traders. Watch this video to hear about where soybeans from the United States are shipped.

In July 2014, the American Soybean Association released a position paper supporting waterway and highway transportation infrastructure improvements and protections.

ASA supports the funding of dredging projects and increased monies toward dams and lock improvements along the Mississippi River. ASA also supports a revision of truck weight limits in the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (SETA).

In one week during the August of 2015, the amount of soybeans and other commodity crops shipped by container ship for export, nearly exceeded 2 million metric tons!

Next gen standards

Science and engineering practices

  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Using mathematics and computational thinking
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Crosscutting concepts

  • Scale, proportion, and quantity

Disciplinary core ideas/content

  • ESS3A Natural resources
  • ESS3C Human impacts on Earth systems
  • LS2C Ecosystem dynamics, functioning and resilience
  • ETS1B Developing possible solutions
  • ETS2B Influence of engineering, technology and science on society and the natural world


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