Soybeans and corn are the dominant crops in Minnesota, with almost equal amounts grown - over 7 million acres each - and harvest values of between one and two billion dollars each. Soybeans were grown in China for more than 5,000 years, as corn was cultivated by Native Americans. U.S. farmers grew soybeans in the late 1800s for cattle forage, and in the 1920s began harvesting them for seeds.
University varieties released in the 1920s and 30s were selected from similar latitudes in China and Korea, and tested at U of M Agricultural Experiment Stations in Waseca and Morris. However, their 1932 annual report saw limited potential: "The soybean crop has an important function in Southern Minnesota agriculture as an annual or emergency hay crop in case of clover hay failure."
By 1940, southern Minnesota farmers planted 251,000 acres of beans that yielded 15 bushels per acre. Now, yields average 41 bushels an acre thanks to breeders, plant disease experts, and soil scientists that adapted the crop to Minnesota.
In 1946 a U of M plant breeder was hired to develop varieties tailored to Minnesota, the most northerly state in the Corn Belt. By the 1970s 20 varieties were released and plant pathologists and breeders began developing plants resistant to the soybean cyst nematode (SCN), a major pest that invaded southern counties. Another measure of breeders' success in bringing the soybean north is that 16% of the Minnesota crop is now exported through Duluth; none went through that northern port 15 years ago.
Soybeans were recognized by the legislature in 1960 with funding to expand genetics and physiology work. In 1965 farmers began supporting research via the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council. The three-way partnership has made Minnesota research, varieties and products worldwide commodities.
Soybean cyst nematode samples are collected from roots by gently washing away soil and debris. Close-up view shows this pest attached to roots.
Soybeans are processed into two major components, protein and oil, and a third minor category of whole soybean products. More than 50% of the world's protein comes from this crop. Soybeans are an excellent protein source since each seed contains 40% protein, compared with other legumes - 25% - and cereal grains with about 12% protein. Most soy products are consumed by livestock.
Soybean Protein and Meal Products
Poultry, swine, beef, dairy, and pet food. Flour, meat substitute, soymilk, baby formula, pharmaceuticals, adhesives.
Soybean Oil Products Cooking oil, margarine, salad dressing, biodiesel, dust control, printing ink, glycerol, fatty acids, sterols, lecithin.
Whole Soybean Products (less than 1%):
Yellow leaves are an indication of iron chlorosis. U of M breeders and soil scientists developed varieties that are tolerant of the higher pH soils where this is a problem.
Soybeans are evaluated under a misting system at the West Central Research and Outreach Center, Morris, to assess their susceptibility to fungal and bacterial diseases.
Soybean research plots at the Southern Research and Outreach Center, Waseca, are harvested by combines that keep seed from each of 5,000 potential varieties separate.
Initial crosses for new soybean varieties are made at the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus.
Soybeans are daylength sensitive - flowering and therefore seed production is triggered by hours of sun - so varieties are bred for three distinct Minnesota zones. Shorter season varieties also provide options for delayed planting in the event of late or wet springs.
U of M Soybean Varieties
The University develops soybeans that compete in world markets. 'Chico' and 'Grande' represent two extremes in size, but represent Minnesota's almost one billion dollars of beans exported annually.
U of M Soybean Varieties
|Habaro 1922||Wilkin 1972||Kato 1989||Toyopro 1995|
|Chestnut 1922||Evans 1974||Sturdy 1989||Black Kato 1995|
|Minsoy 1922||Hodgson 1974||Minnatto 1989||Glacier 1995|
|Soysota 1922||Grande 1976||Proto 1989||Granite 1995|
|Elton 1922||Hodgson 78 1978||Kasota 1990||Freeborn 1995|
|MN Manchu 1922||McCall 1978||Bert 1991||MN 0301 1997|
|Renville 1953||Simpson 1982||Leslie 1991||MN 1301 1997|
|Traverse 1965||M70-187 1982||Agassiz 992||UM3 1997|
|Clay 1968||Ozzie 1983||Lambert 1992||Surge 1997|
|Norman 1969||Dawson 1983||Parker 1992||Stride 1997|
|Anoka 1970||Chico 1983||Alpha 1992||MN 1401 1998|
|Ada 1972||Sibley 1986||Hendricks 1994||MN 0901 1999|
|Steele 1972||Dassel 1986||Faribault 1994||MN 1801 1999|
|Swift 1972||Glenwood 1987||M87-1567 1994||MN 0902 CN2000|
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