"Soybeans indeed have a colourful history involving ancient cultures and early explorers. The soybean is a protein source that had a pivotal role in expanding commercial livestock and poultry industries, an edible oil important to world nutrition, and many dedicated individuals with the foresight to see the potential of the soybean. It is a truly remarkable crop that has changed the world." (Smith)
"A Good Human Food Beause...
It is cheap.
The protein in the cooked condition is easily digested as that from meat, containing amino acids necessary for life.
The bean contains lecithin which aids the assimilation of food and is an ingredient in the nervous system.
The bean contains little to no starch making it a good choice for diabetes." (Smith)
A. Soybean- The flower and the fruit:
-----------------------------------The Flower-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The Fruit

The soybean plant is an angiosperm and is classified as a eudicot. It can vary in growth and habit, ranging anywheres from 20 cm (7.9 in) up to 2 metres (6.6 ft). It is a dicotyledon unlike grassy crops like corn and wheat. Instead of getting it's nitrogen from the soil, soybean plants produce their own using the nodules on their roots that contain bacteria which take nitrogen from the air and make it available to the plant. The pods, stems, and leaves are all covered in fine brown and gray hairs and the self-fertilized flowers that emerge from the axil of the leaf are either white, pink or purple. After pollination the fruit, which is a hairy pod, grows into clusters of three to five and usually holds two to four seeds within each. The actual soybean comes in various sizes and in numerous hull and seed coat colors. The hull of the mature bean is hard, water resistant, and protects the cotyleon and hypocotyls from damage. ("Kids' Day")

The Soybean Lifecycle

---------The Soybean Seed-----------------Germinating Seed-------------Soybean Flower Blooming---------Soybean Pod------------Mature Soybean Plants
B. Botanical Information:
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Glycine
Species: G. max
Binomial name: Glycine max

The soybean (Glycine max) is a species of legume that is native from East Asia. Similarly to all other peas and beans, lentils and peanuts, it belongs to the large Leguminosae botanical family. Commonly known as the legume family, pea family, bean family, or pulse family, the soybean and it's relatives have become acclimated to many environments around the world. Some of the soybeans relatives, and the best known members of the Fabaceae family, consist of Phaseolus (beans), Pisum sativum (peas), Cicer arietinum (chickpeas), Medicago sativa (alfalfa), arachis hypogaea (peanut), Ceratonia siliqua (carob), and Clycyrrhiza glabra (licorice). "Legume Family (Fabaceae)" All food legumes can be divided into two types: oilseeds and pulses. Although a majority of the other food legumes are pulses (peas and beans), the soybean (like the peanut) is an oilseed. (Shurtleff)
C. Geographic Distribution
Soybeans in America
1765 - The soybean was first introduced to the Americas.
2000s - Research is proving soybeans are a valuable renewable resource that is finding increased use in biodiesel fuels, biodegradable polymers, environmentally-friendly lubricants and many industrial chemicals, as well as a major crop within the food industry.
Today - soybeans are extremely important to the US farm economy. The industry is valued at $15 billion dollars, annually. Soybeans are planted on more than 73 million acres, with trend lines averaging about 40 bushels per acre and total production of 2.8 billion bushels per year. (Smith) Soybeans can be grown throughout the US but the ideal planting locations are in the midwest; Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota have been the top producing states. ("WISHH: World Initiative for Soy in Human Health") With regards to 2011, domestic growers intend on planting an estimated of 76.7 million acres; US production is highest in the “Corn belt”, the southern Great Plains, and most of the Southeast. Production in North Dakota is on a trend to increase by 250,000 acres; likewise in Missouri the jump will likely be 150,000 acres. ("Prospective Planting")

Soybeans Worldwide
Although the United States is a major producer of the soybean, countries in South American and the far east do so as well. The most significant producers, aside from the United States which produces about 35%, are Brazil (27%), Argentina (19%), China (6%), and India (4%). Although the plant is originally native to China there has clearly been a shift in production to the Western Hemisphere. ("soyatech: Growing Opportunities")
usmap[1].jpg --------- soybean%20map[1].jpg
D. Human Use and Domestication
Throughout the webpage the term "soybean" refers to the domesticated Glycine max soybean; however, the Glycine soga is the earliest wild ancestor of today's cultivated crop. Originating in East Asia, each of the tiny wild soybean seeds probably weighed about one-ninth as much as today's US cultivated one. Yields of the seed were low, and they tended to be very fragile and prone to shatter at maturity. Surprisingly, these wild seeds were very low in oil compared to today's and quite high in protein and the sulphur-containing amino acids, methionine-cystine. Through domestication the seed now produces the opposite proportions allowing soy to account for a large portion of the oil consumed in America.

Over the course of many centuries, humans selectively kept seeds from their largest seeded and highest yielding plants, then planted them for the next season. As growers sought higher yields, the amount of oil per seed tended to increase with a simultaneous loss of protein. Additionally, the process of transforming the soybean into today's cultivated crop resulted in a plant with more erect growth habits, less shattering of the seeds from the pods, and less twining (all of which facilitate harvesting, especially by machine). Furthermore, today's plant is less sensitive to photoperiod (day length which facilitates north-south dissemination of the plant), larger in size (large plants bear more seeds), and larger in seed size (giving higher yields, easier shelling, and a higher ratio of cotyledons to hulls). Through selecting the most desirable traits humans have successfully domesticated this once native and wild plant, making it much easier to mass produce. (Shurtleff)

Today, about 85% of the world's soybeans are processed into soybeal meal and oil. About 98% of the soybean meal is further processed into animal feed with the remaining 2% processed into soy flours and proteins for food use. 95% of the oil is consumed as edible oil leaving 5% to be used in industrial products such as fatty acids, soaps, and biodiesel. Soy is also a healthy choice for dietary purposes as it is one of the few plants that holds all eight essential amino acids; about 6% of soybeans are used directly as human food. Soybeans are an ingredient in the traditional tofu and soymilk as well as meat analogs and soy-based yogurts. Soybeams are also popularly known as the appetizer dish, edamame. Lastly, soy ingredients are used to enhance the nutritional value of other processed foods. For instance, isolated soy proteins are produced and added to acidic or clear beverages, substances that wouldn't otherwise hold protein. ("soyatech: Growing Opportunities") Robeks a nation-wide smoothie chain has recently introduced a soy protein smoothie line which gives them that extra boost, and this is just one example of the adoption.
E. Economic Outlook: Soy as an Agricultural Commodity
The large-scale soybean production in the U.S. started during the 1940's when a rapid increase in both domestic and international demand for protein meal and oil occurred. While acreage of soybeans in America tripled in just 15 years, going from 4.8 million acres to 18.6 million, the total production of soybeans increase nearly five-fold, skyrocketing from 78 million bushels to 374 million. As demand continued to increase in the 1960's, the U.S. became an international soybean superpower exporting large quantities of actual beans, soybean meal, and soy oil all over the world. Although the industry's growth has seemed to plateau over the past decade, the US still produces around 75 million metric tons of soybeans each year. ("soyatech: Growing Opportunities")

As previously discussed, soybean production takes place internationally. In recent years, forecast for South American production have diminished leaving the US as the leading supplier. Although production analysis projects that numbers for 2011 will decrease, it's only by a slight margin. The USDA WASDE Report 7.12.11 recently released projected numbers for the upcoming year. The production figures show trends over the past 30 years; although the increments of three to five years scatter between spikes and falls in production, levels have cumulatively increased over the past 30 years. Likewise, supply projects a slight decrease for 2011; however, since 2000 supply in general has also increased. ("World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates")
Below are numbers reported within the Soybean Industry: Production and Trade statistical summary, provided by the United States Department of Agriculture. As one can see, within the past four years production rose and then fell again; however, as stated above this four year span doesn't provide a good enough trend to conclude soybean's economic behavior in it's entirety. Graphs showing trends in the soybean industry for the past 30 years can be found under the following link; these graphs show an overall increase in supply and production. ("Crops: Grain Supply and Demand (WASDE)")
US Soybean Production
In million bushels-
Decreased production does NOT mean unpopular crop!
Government figures show that corn is the biggest U.S. crop, valued at $66.7 billion in 2010, followed by soybeans at $38.9 billion; thus, other confounding variables must be responsible for the decreases in production. (Wilson)Sure enough changes in ethanol production, exports, and energy prices all indirectly affect soybean supply. Fors instance, increases in ethanol production led to increases in corn prices, which in turn lead to increases in the amount of acres devoted to corn. As acres for corn increased, acres for soybeans decreased, and thus less space meant lower production. ("Detailed CPI Report")

Further evidence showing that production decreases are effected by confounding variables and not popularity loss is the steady market demand for soybeans. According to numbers released in the USDA Report, a slight decrease has occured this year but over the past decade, usage has plateaued and exports have significantly increased. ("World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates") As previously discussed, South American production has recently been cut; these reductions have further boosted demand for U.S. exports, particularly in China which is the world's largest soybean importer. Significant growth in the use of animal feed (soy meal being a primary source) and biodiesel feedstock also demands soybean production. Lastly, the increased demand for soyfoods, and healthy alternatives that contain soy as a means of enhancing nutrition, also ensure continued need for food grade soybeans. ("soyatech: Growing Opportunities")
The following link provides graphs that show usage and export trends for further information. ("Crops: Gain Supply and Demand (WASDE)")


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