December 02, 2023

History of the soybean: Learn about soy’s journey in U.S.

DANVILLE, Ind. — The history of soybeans in the United States can be traced back to 1765, when the first soybean seed was planted in North America.

Soybeans had humble beginnings, but have grown to be a significant food and feed source worldwide.

The U.S. Soybean Export Council shared a timeline of soybean history. Here are some of the highlights.

200 B.C.-300 A.D. — Korea and Japan cultivate soybeans.

1765 — Soybean seed from China is planted in the British colony of Georgia.

1770 — Benjamin Franklin sends soybean seeds to a friend to plant in his garden.

1860-1865 — Civil War soldiers use the soybean to make a version of coffee.

1862 — President Abraham Lincoln signs into a law an act of Congress establishing the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

1898 — The USDA began importing soybean varieties to the United States.

1904 — George Washington Carver discovers that soybeans are a good source of protein and oil at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

1919 — William Morse co-founds the American Soybean Association and becomes its first president. At the time, farmers only used 20 proven varieties of soybeans.

1941 — Henry Ford develops soybean-based plastic and uses it for automobile trunk lids.

1952 — Because of its availability and protein content, soybean meal becomes a staple in poultry and livestock feed.

1962 — U.S. soybeans and soybean products have been leading U.S. agricultural exports since 1962.

1966 — The Indiana Soybean Growers Association is formed to advocate for soybean farmers on important industry issues.

1977 — U.S. farmers’ yields reach a national average of 30 bushels per acre for the first time.

1982 — Soybean farmers lay the foundation for today’s relationship with China.

1990 — Congress creates a national soybean checkoff, leading to the formation of the United Soybean Board.

1995 — After 23 years of market development effort, China starts to import U.S. soy.

2009 — The National Science Foundation maps the soybeans full genetic code.

Today, the United States is forecasted to export nearly 2.1 billion bushels of soy and soy products.

In 2020, the value of U.S. soybean exports to the world reached a record $25.7 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The total value of U.S. soybean exports in 2020 was more than $4 billion above the five-year average of 2013-2017.

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Erica Quinlan

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor