August is National Soybean Month!

August is National Soybean Month!

Soybeans Soybeans

August 11, 2016

Nashville, TN

August is National Soybean Month! To celebrate, and take some time to get to know these little guys. What are soybeans, really? How are they used? And why do we need them? 

Often times, when you hear the word "soybean" all that comes to mind is soy milk or tofu. You might think, “‘Ew! I like my milk AND my meat from a cow, please, and thank you!” But the truth is, soybeans are extremely important in agriculture, in the United States economy, and in our everyday lives. 

While soybeans are great alternatives to meat and dairy – they are the world’s highest source of dietary fiber and produce significantly more protein per acre than most other crops – meat and dairy substitutions are just one in a large variety of uses for this edible bean. 

Soybeans were first introduced to the Americas in 1765 by a sailor who brought them back from China. There are about 75 million acres of soy in the U.S, with the top producing states being Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, and Minnesota. In fact, 32% of all the soy produced in the world is grown in the U.S. The little bean is one of our top exports. 

The best thing about soybeans is that a little land goes a long way. Each soybean plant produces 60 to 80 pods which can hold up to three beans. That means one plant can hold up to 320 beans. In fact, one acre of soybeans can produce 2,500 gallons of soy milk, more than 40,000 8oz servings of tofu, and over 82,000 crayons. 

Yep, you heard that right. Crayons can be made out of soy. In generic crayons, the main ingredient is petroleum oil. However, in 1993, two students at Purdue University came up with a new use of soy and a more environmentally friendly way to make crayons. Thus, the soy crayon was born. Made out of 85% soybean oil, soy crayons are sold in supermarkets across the U.S by various brands, including Dixon-Ticonderoga. 

Soybeans have found their way into a lot of strange products. You can find some form of soy in candles, cleaning products, hair care products, wood adhesives, textiles, and plastics. Henry Ford even used soybeans for the frames of his cars in 1935.

Check out a few more fast facts about this plentiful and versatile plant:

  • Soybean oil provides an environmentally friendly fuel for diesel engines.
  • 98 percent of the soybean and livestock farms in the country are still family farms.
  • Tofu is believed to have become a popular cooking ingredient during the Han Dynasty in China (206 BC – 220 AD).
  • Elevators in the Statue of Liberty use a soybean-based hydraulic fluid. 
  • About half of U.S. soybeans are exported to major markets ,including Europe, Japan, Taiwan, Mexico and South Korea.
  • More than 90 percent of America’s daily newspapers use soy ink.
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