Soybeans are the No. 2 crop grown in Peoria County and the Midwest. Most of the recent discussion has centered on corn, the No.1 crop in the Corn Belt, which supplies the primary ingredient in ethanol, but soybeans deserve some attention too.
Acreage planted to soybeans really took a nose dive last year. Farmers have flexibility in what they plant, and the market was demanding corn in 2007. Back in 2006, soybeans comprised 81,000 acres in Peoria County; in 2007, that number dropped to 62,000.
How many acres of soybeans did farmers plant in 2008? In the fall of 2007, prices for soybeans began to catch up to corn, so farmers planted more acres to soybeans this spring. Although soybeans yield much lower than corn (48 bushels per acre vs. 188 bushels per acre in 2007), the price per bushel for soybeans is much higher. The free-market forces of supply and demand are working in farm country.
Soybean demand is increasing worldwide; the U.S., Brazil and Argentina are its major producers and exporters. So just what does the soybean have to offer? They are used in a wide variety of products. Across the globe, most soybeans are crushed and used to feed livestock, but with developing countries increasing their diet of meat, there is more demand for soybeans in livestock, poultry and even fish farming.
Soybean oil represents 76 percent of the vegetable oil and 81 percent of all fats and oils used in edible products. As a consumer, you have access to many grocery products that contain soybeans. Just look at the ingredients the next time you walk down the grocery aisle: salad dressings, crackers, cookies, tofu and baby food all contain soybeans.
A bushel of soybeans weighs 60 pounds at 13 percent moisture. From one bushel, processors can harvest 1.5 gallons of biodiesel from the soybean oil. Biodiesel is a fast-growing alternative fuel that is biodegradable, renewable, environmentally friendly and locally grown. Many school districts throughout the state have been using a 20 percent soy biodiesel blend in their school buses. The Illini Bluffs School District and Peoria Charter Coach have used biodiesel in their buses with much success.
The Peoria Journal Star is printed with soy ink. This magazine is also printed with soy ink—just look on the back cover and you will find a red, white and blue teardrop logo and the words “printed with soy ink.”
The Farm Bureau office and many retail outlets sell clean-burning candles made from soybeans. They burn longer, have stronger fragrances and do not create the black soot that paraffin candles do. Candles by Sharon, located in Glasford, is a local maker and retailer of soy candles.
From a historical perspective, soybeans originated in China and were first grown by U.S. farmers in 1829 for the production of soy sauce. They were later used by soldiers during the Civil War to brew “coffee” when coffee beans were scarce.
During the late 1800s, farmers began to grow soybeans and fed the whole soybean plant as forage to cattle, but that changed in 1904, when George Washington Carver began studying the miracle bean. His discoveries provided insight into the valuable protein and oil found in the soybean seed.
In the early 1900s, Henry Ford, another soybean innovator, saw the need to develop industrial uses for renewable agricultural products. One of his most striking demonstrations was when he made an auto trunk lid from soybean-based plastics and took an ax to it to demonstrate its resilience.
In approximately four weeks, Peoria County farmers will be harvesting another soybean crop. The miracle soybean is improving your quality of life in more ways than you can imagine. iBi