Soybean is a type of legume that is native to East Asia. It is a major source of protein and oil and is widely cultivated around the world for use in a variety of food products, such as tofu, soy milk, and soy sauce. Soybeans are also used to produce a range of industrial products, including plastics, paints, and lubricants. The plant grows to be about two to three feet tall, and produces pods that contain two to four beans.
Soybeans are a type of annual plant and are typically grown in areas with warm, temperate climates, as they require a long growing season to reach maturity. They are typically planted in well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. There are many different varieties of soybeans, which are categorized based on their use and the characteristics of the plants and seeds. Some varieties are used for their oil content, while others are used for their protein content or for specific food products.
Global Soybean Importance
Soybeans are the world’s leading source of plant-based protein, with more than half of the world’s soybeans used for animal feed and the rest used for human consumption.
In 2021, the top five producers of soybeans by volume were the United States, Brazil, Argentina, China, and India, which together accounted for more than 85% of the world’s soybean production. These five countries produced a total of over 400 million metric tons of soybeans
In 2021, about 58% of the world’s soybean production was used for animal feed, while the rest was used for human consumption or other purposes, such as industrial uses.
It is a major commodity and are traded on various commodity exchanges around the world, including the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) and the Dalian Commodity Exchange in China. In 2021, the average price of soybeans was around $14 per bushel.
Soybean is classified scientifically as Glycine max (L.) Merr. They belong to the family of plants known as Fabaceae, which also includes beans, peas, and lentils.
Soybean is classified in the following way:
Kingdom: Plantae (plants)
Division: Tracheophyta (vascular plants)
Class: Magnoliopsida (dicotyledons)
Family: Fabaceae (legumes)
Species: G. max
The species name “Glycine max” is used to distinguish soybeans from other plants in the Glycine genus. The term “L.” is used to indicate the plant was described by Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist who developed the modern system of plant classification. The term “Merr.” indicates that the plant was named by William Silver Morton, an American botanist.
Botanical Description of Soybean
The structure of the soybean plant consists of the following parts:
Roots: The soybean plant has a deep taproot that anchors the plant in the soil and helps it access moisture and nutrients. The root system is also supported by lateral roots that branch off from the main taproot.
Stem: The stem of the soybean plant is upright and unbranched, and grows to be about two to three feet tall. The stem is supported by nodes, which are points where leaves, flowers, and branches emerge.
Leaves: The soybean plant has compound leaves, which means they are made up of multiple leaflets attached to a single stem. The leaves are alternate, meaning they are arranged in a spiral pattern along the stem. Each leaf has three to nine oval-shaped leaflets that are attached to the stem by a small stalk.
Flowers: The soybean plant produces small, green flowers that are typically borne in clusters on the branches. The flowers are self-pollinating, meaning that they can fertilize themselves and produce seeds without the help of pollinators.
Pods: The soybean plant produces pods that contain two to four beans. The pods are green when they are immature, but turn yellow or brown as the beans mature.
Seeds (Beans): The seeds of the soybean plant are oval or round in shape, and vary in size and color depending on the variety. They may be yellow, black, brown, or green, and may be smooth or wrinkled. The seeds are encased in a seed coat and contain a germ, which is the part of the seed that will grow into a new plant.
Origin and Domestication History of Soybean
Soybeans are thought to have originated in China and other parts of East Asia, where they have been cultivated for over 3,000 years. They were initially used for their oil content, which was extracted from the seeds and used in cooking and for making candles and soap. Soybeans were also used as a source of protein and were fed to livestock.
There is limited information available about the precise history of soybeans and their cultivation. However, it is believed that soybeans were first domesticated in China around the 11th century BC. They were likely grown as a food crop and for their nitrogen-fixing abilities, which made them useful for improving soil fertility.
Soybeans were introduced to Japan in the 8th century AD and to Korea in the 10th century AD, where they quickly became a staple crop. Over time, soybeans became an important food crop in East Asia, and a range of food products made from soybeans, such as tofu and soy sauce, became popular. Soybeans were introduced to other parts of the world through trade and exploration.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, soybeans became an important source of protein for livestock in Europe and the United States. In the mid-20th century, soybeans began to be used more widely in human food products, such as tofu and soy milk.
Genetics of Soybean
Soybeans are diploid, meaning they have two copies of each chromosome, for a total of 40 chromosomes. The genome of the soybean has been sequenced, and it is estimated to contain around 107 million base pairs and around 40,000 genes. The genome contains a number of interesting features, including a large number of transposable elements, which are pieces of DNA that can move around the genome and potentially disrupt or alter gene function. The genome also contains a number of genes involved in nitrogen fixation, which is the process by which nitrogen from the air is converted into a form that plants can use.
Genetically modified (GM) soybeans, which have been modified through biotechnology techniques to have certain desired traits, have been in use since the 1990s. One common trait of GM soybeans is resistance to herbicides, which allows farmers to more easily control weeds in their fields. GM soybeans have been widely adopted in the United States, with an estimated 93% of soybeans grown for the commercial market being GM in 2010.
Characteristics of Soybean
Soybeans are an important source of protein, oil, and other nutrients for human consumption. They are also used as feed for livestock, and the oil from soybeans can be used in a variety of industrial products, such as biodiesel, lubricants, and candles.
Soybeans are valued for their ability to fix nitrogen from the air and enrich the soil. This is made possible by the presence of nitrogen-fixing bacteria in root nodules on the soybean plant. The bacteria convert nitrogen from the air into a form that the plant can use, and the plant provides the bacteria with a place to live and nutrients in return. This symbiotic relationship helps to improve soil fertility and can reduce the need for chemical fertilizers.
Pests, Diseases & Weeds of Soybean
Soybeans, like all crops, can be affected by a variety of pests, diseases, and weeds. Some common ones include:
- Aphids: These small, soft-bodied insects feed on the sap of soybean plants, causing reduced growth and yield. They can also transmit diseases.
- Bean leaf beetles: These beetles feed on the leaves and stems of soybean plants, causing damage and reducing yield. They can also transmit diseases.
- Soybean looper: These caterpillars feed on the leaves and stems of soybean plants, causing damage and reducing yield.
- Japanese beetles: These beetles feed on the leaves, flowers, and stems of soybean plants, causing damage and reducing yield.
- Soybean rust: This fungal disease causes yellow or brown lesions on the leaves and stems of soybean plants, which can lead to reduced growth and yield.
- Soybean mosaic virus: This viral disease causes mottled or distorted leaves and reduced growth and yield.
- Sudden death syndrome: This fungal disease causes yellowing and wilting of the leaves, as well as reduced growth and yield.
- White mold: This fungal disease causes white, cottony growth on the stems and leaves of soybean plants, which can lead to reduced growth and yield.
- Pigweeds: These weeds can compete with soybean plants for water, nutrients, and sunlight, leading to reduced growth and yield.
- Lambsquarters: These weeds can also compete with soybean plants for resources, leading to reduced growth and yield.
To control pests, diseases, and weeds in soybeans, farmers may use a combination of cultural practices (such as crop rotation and proper fertilization), biological control methods (such as releasing beneficial insects), and chemical controls (such as herbicides and pesticides). It is important to carefully consider the pros and cons of each control method and to use them judiciously to minimize any negative impacts on the environment and human health.
Soybean production technology refers to the various practices and techniques used to grow soybeans successfully. Some key factors to consider in soybean production technology include:
Selection of suitable varieties: Different soybean varieties have different characteristics, such as disease resistance, maturity time, and yield potential. It is important to choose a variety that is well-suited to the local climate and soil conditions.
Preparation of the soil: Soybeans can be grown in a variety of soil types, but they prefer well-drained, fertile soils with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Before planting, it is important to prepare the soil by removing weeds and debris, and adding any necessary amendments such as compost or lime to improve soil structure and fertility.
Planting: Soybeans can be planted using various methods, including drill planting (planting seeds in rows using a mechanical seeder) or broadcast planting (scattering seeds over a large area). Soybeans should be planted at a depth of about 1 inch (2.5 cm) and spaced about 6 inches (15 cm) apart in the row.
Fertilization: Soybeans require a balanced supply of nutrients to grow and produce a good yield. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are the most important nutrients for soybeans, and they should be applied according to soil test results and recommendations.
Irrigation: Soybeans need a consistent supply of moisture to grow and produce a good yield. In dry areas, irrigation may be necessary to ensure that the soil remains adequately moist.
Pest and disease management: Soybeans can be affected by a variety of pests and diseases that can reduce yield and quality. To control these problems, farmers may use a combination of cultural practices (such as crop rotation and proper fertilization), biological control methods (such as releasing beneficial insects), and chemical controls (such as herbicides and pesticides).
Harvesting: Soybeans are typically ready for harvest when the pods are yellow or brown and the beans inside are hard. Harvesting can be done using mechanical combines, which cut and thresh the soybeans. After harvesting, the soybeans should be dried to a moisture content of about 13% before they are stored or shipped.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Soybean
Here are some advantages and disadvantages of growing soybean as a crop:
Advantages of Soybean
Nutritious: Soybeans are a good source of protein, fiber, and a variety of essential vitamins and minerals, including folate, iron, and calcium. They are also a good source of polyunsaturated fats, including both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Versatile: Soybeans can be used in a wide range of food products, including tofu, tempeh, soy milk, and oil. They can also be used as an animal feed. The high protein content of soybeans makes them a valuable ingredient in many vegetarian and vegan products.
Sustainable: Soybeans can be grown with minimal inputs, making them a sustainable choice for food and feed production. They can be grown on land that is not suitable for other crops, and they can also fix nitrogen from the air, which can improve soil fertility and reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers.
Good for the environment: Soybeans are a legume, which means they have the ability to fix nitrogen from the air and add it to the soil. This can help to improve soil fertility and reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers. Soybeans are also a relatively low-input crop, which means they require fewer inputs (such as water, pesticides, and fertilizers) than some other crops. This can help to reduce the environmental impact of soybean production.
Economic benefits: Soybean production can provide economic benefits to farmers and communities. Soybeans are a major global commodity, and the demand for soybeans is likely to continue to grow as the global population increases.
Disadvantages of Soybean
Allergies: Some people may be allergic to soy, which can cause symptoms such as hives, itching, and difficulty breathing. Soy allergies are relatively rare, but they can be severe in some individuals.
Contamination: Soybeans can be contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals during production. These chemicals can be harmful to human health and the environment if they are not properly managed.
Genetic modification: Many soybean varieties have been genetically modified to resist pests and herbicides. Some people may be concerned about the safety and environmental impacts of genetically modified crops.
Processing: Soybeans often go through a process of chemical extraction and refining to produce products like soy oil and protein isolate. This process can produce by-products that have negative impacts on the environment.
Land use: Soybean production can require large amounts of land, which can lead to deforestation and other environmental impacts. In some cases, soybean production has been linked to land grabbing and other human rights abuses. It is important for soybean production to be done in a way that is sustainable and respects the rights of local communities.
Nutritional Properties of Soybean
Here is a breakdown of the nutritional properties of soybeans per 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of raw, uncooked soybeans:
- Protein: 36 grams
- Fiber: 8 grams
- Fat: 20 grams (9 grams of which are polyunsaturated, 7 grams are monounsaturated, and 4 grams are saturated)
- Carbohydrates: 29 grams
- Iron: 3.9 milligrams (21% of the recommended daily value (DV))
- Magnesium: 148 milligrams (36% DV)
- Potassium: 710 milligrams (20% DV)
- Phosphorus: 405 milligrams (41% DV)
- Zinc: 4.5 milligrams (41% DV)
- Copper: 0.8 milligrams (88% DV)
- Manganese: 2.2 milligrams (99% DV)
- Thiamin (vitamin B1): 0.4 milligrams (34% DV)
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2): 0.3 milligrams (20% DV)
- Niacin (vitamin B3): 1.2 milligrams (6% DV)
- Vitamin B6: 0.2 milligrams (10% DV)
- Folate (vitamin B9): 348 micrograms (87% DV)
- Vitamin E: 1.9 milligrams (10% DV)
Soybeans are also a good source of antioxidants, including isoflavones, which may have a range of potential health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer.
It’s important to note that the nutritional content of soybeans can vary depending on how they are prepared and the specific variety of soybeans. For example, soybeans that have been roasted or fried may have a slightly different nutritional profile than raw soybeans. Additionally, the nutritional content of soy-based products, such as soy milk or tofu, may also vary.
Soybeans are a type of legume that are high in protein and have a wide range of uses, including being made into products like tofu, soy milk, and soybean oil. They are also a popular source of feed for livestock and can be used to enrich soil due to their nitrogen-fixing abilities. Soybeans are grown in many parts of the world and are an important crop in countries like the United States, Brazil, and China. Their versatility and nutritional value make them a valuable part of many diets and industries.