Soybeans: What are they used for?

This year after harvesting my wheat crop in July I planted soybeans behind it.

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One of my soybean fields in late August in North Alabama.

Soybeans are quite common in the United States, especially in the corn belt, but in recent years many farmers in the Southeast have began to put a large percentage of their acreage in soybeans.

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Soybeans are typically harvested October-November

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Soybeans are harvested by a machine called a combine

Soybeans originated in eastern Asia and is still part of the food in many cultures. Have you ever had edamane? You were eating soybeans.

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A record soybean crop was planted this year in the United States totaling 77.728 million acres, keep in mind an acre is about the size of a football field. All these soybeans do not go to Asian restaurants, in fact few do. Soybeans are mainly grown for their oil.

I don’t know if you have every paid much attention at the grocery store, but there are a lot of different kinds of oil you can buy to cook with.

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Some of the most popular are vegetable, canola, and olive. Depending upon the grocery store you visit you may find others like sunflower, safflower, peanut, corn, and even walnut oils. Each type of oil has its on flash point. The “flash point” is the temperature at which the oil ignites. The smoke point is the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke. It begins to burn at this point and it can be a fire hazard.

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Vegetable oil is from soybeans. Soybean oil  was re-labeled when “all vegetable” shortenings in the 1960s which replaced lard and beef tallow-based shortenings. This continued when certain oils were perceived as healthy in the 1970s, and were promoted in advertisements and labeling. According to the US Soybean Board soybean oil is by far the most predominant oil of the food industry due to its versatility in foods.  More than 80% of cooking oil in commercial applications is soybean oil.

Other food products soybeans are used in are:

Baked Goods

Baked Goods

Non-dairy creamers

Non-dairy creamers

Salad Dressings

Salad Dressings

Soy Milk

Soy Milk

Whipped Toppings

Whipped Toppings

Margarines

Margarines

BBQ Sauces

BBQ Sauces

Other products that soybeans are used for that do not involve food are:

Cosmetics

Cosmetics

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Diesel Fuel

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Animal Feeds- Especially poultry feed here in Alabama

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Inks- both in ink pens and ink used in magazines and newspapers

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Anti-biotics and other pharmaceuticals

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Paints

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Plywood

These little beans may not seem like much, but they are the second largest crop in the United States behind corn and are found in many products we use everyday.

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Mark Phillips: Student and Farmer

Mark Phillips

Mark Phillips is a classmate of mine at Auburn. Currently we have Ag Marketing together. Some days it gets time for class and fellow classmate Garrett Dixon will jokingly ask “Where’s Mark? Did he drop the class?” 

If Mark is late or rarely happens to not make it to class we usually know where he is. In the field. DSC_0834

Mark is a senior at Auburn studying agronomy, but his ambition is to one day be a full-time farmer. He didn’t grow up living on a farm, but his grandparents and uncle farm and he worked on their operation from an early age. When he came to Auburn, Mark knew he wanted to farm, but wanted to go ahead and get a degree.

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During his time at Auburn he has worked for a local farmer. So every afternoon when classes are over for Mark he heads to the farm for an afternoon of work. During planting and harvest seasons this means some long days because after he leaves the field in the evenings he still has homework to do.

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“I love it” says Mark “some days they have to almost drag me off the tractor.”

Most students that major in some form of agriculture do not aspire to be farmers. However I am thankful for those like Mark who want to. I cannot think of a more noble profession than to feed people and care for animals. It is so encouraging to know there are people out there like Mark that are passionate about farming, especially at such a young age.

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Harvest: My Favorite Time of Year

I was an August baby, at home my mom has pictures of me in the cotton field with my dad when I was just a few weeks old. I’ve always been around it been around harvest in the fall . My dad quit farming a few years ago, but because my younger brothers and I have started farming I am still around it. This fall I am looking forward to harvesting my first soybean crop and I am beyond excited.

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My soybeans were looking good when I was home a few weekends ago. They are all but ready to harvest.

Yesterday I had an opportunity to do something I usually do not get to do in Auburn. I left class and went and went to the fields. This time it was not to work. I am writing an article about one of my classmates Mark so I needed some pictures of him working. Although I was along to take pictures it was such a thrill to spend some time in the soybeans.

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Watching soybeans and corn so intently with my internship this summer I am more amazed than ever at the  cycle plants go through. It is absolutely amazing to watch tiny seeds push through hard crusted soil, it is amazing to see them be subjected to harsh environmental conditions and see them bounce back. I have a post in mind to do soon relating seeds/plants to life, but ‘m not going to jump in on that today.

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I’m so thankful that the cycle of life exists for plants, its really remarkable to see how a tiny seed can be planted and cared for and can be turned into a useful product that may be turned into food, fiber, fuel, plastics, medicines, etc. Harvest is when farmers can see all their hard work come to fruition. Some years depending on drought and other factors it may not be a good year, but those are things we do not have control over.

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Another reason I like harvest is just the ability to be outside. Typically the weather has cooled off, blue skies, clear and cool mornings and evenings. I think that is just what I needed yesterday, taking off work and spending some time outside was just the therapy I needed to break up the afternoon work cycle I am in each day. Yesterday was a beautiful afternoon, I wish I could have spent all afternoon there, but alasImage