Soybean has been a prevalent crop in temperate regions for thousands of years, with origins in northern Asia and, more recently, in North America and the Southern Cone of Latin America. According to a report, the Chinese first domesticated soybeans in the early 7000 BCE. It has been used in Japan, China, and Korea for thousands of years for food and medicinal purposes.
First introduced in the US in 1804, soybean grew in popularity in 1900 as a soil nitrogen builder and hay crop. It remains a prized crop for its protein constituents and valuable oil. Even though farmers first used soybean to feed animals, the crop grew in popularity when scientists discovered its many uses. The US has since dominated soybean production, primarily through the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. Recent reports show that the nation produces more than 75 percent of the world’s soybean crop.
Soybeans Today in the US
Currently, the USA contributes 34 percent of the world’s soybean market, followed by Brazil with 30 percent. The crop sits among the 97 percent of family-owned farms in the United States. Today, farmers across 45 states grow soybeans, making the crop the second largest cash crop in the country. However, some states produce more soybeans than others.
Soybean Production Ranking by States
Weather conditions during the growing season and the number of acres planted by producers cause the year-to-year variation in the US soy production in different states.
Here are the three top soybean-producing states according to a recent ranking.
- Illinois (672.6 million bushels)
Illinois is the leading soybean-producing state in the United States. The state produced more soybeans than any other state in the country once again in 2021. A report by the USDA reveals Illinois soybean farmers raised 672.6 million bushels on 10.51 million harvested areas. They had an average yield of 64 bushels per acre compared to the 60 acres from 2020, making it a three percent increase.
ISA Chairman and soybean farmer Steve Pitstick, Illinois, continues to record high soybean yield due to smart management decisions and maximizing production opportunities. Other factors contributing to the consistently profitable seasons are the ISA’s funded research and educational opportunities delivered to farmers. These innovations and technology have helped boost profitability, improve ROI, and adopt sustainable practices. Illinois’s soybean farming thrives on enhanced productivity and quality through collaboration, research, and top-notch business management.
- Iowa (621.9 million bushels)
Iowa has always been a top soybean-farming state, producing around 13 percent of the country’s total. The massive soybean growth in the state makes it difficult to believe that this crop is not native to Iowa or the US
With about 621.9 million bushels of soybeans, Iowa ranks second in the nation in soybean production. A report by the USDA shows Iowa’s 2021 average soybean yield of 62 bushels per acre tops the state’s previous record of 62 bushels per acre in 2016. According to the Iowa Soybean Association, the state is striving to maintain its role as a supplier of high-quality soybeans.
Kossuth County takes the lead among the soybean-producing counties, with 13.4 million bushels. Other counties with high yields include Pottawattamie (12.9 million), Sioux (10.9 million), Benton (10.6 million), and Tama (9.98 million).
- Minnesota (356.3 million bushels)
Minnesota is a critical area for agricultural production in the world. The region planted 7.65 million acres and had an average yield of 47 bushels per acre, producing an estimated 356 million bushels in 2021. The state is a great place to grow soybeans—farmers in the state plant over 7 million acres of beans each year.
Nobel County led all Minnesota counties in soybean production. According to the USDA, the County produced 10.8 million bushels, followed by Redwood (10.7 million), Faribault (10.3 million), and Jackson (10.1 million). Blue Earth made the 5th position with 9.95 million.
Other states that made up the top 11 soybeans producing states include:
- Nebraska – 350.9 million
- Indiana – 335.6 million
- Missouri – 276 million bushels
- Ohio – 275.7 million bushels
- South Dakota – 215.6 million bushels
- Kansas – 189.6 million bushels
- North Dakota – 181.6 million bushels
- Arkansas – 153.5 million bushels
Soybean Uses In the US
As a legume, the soybean plant collects nitrogen from the air and releases it back into the soil. This process is beneficial to growing healthy crops and maintaining soil quality. Soybean is primarily used in livestock feeds, food production, and vegetable oils, while a small proportion is being issued in biofuel production. Products include soybean meal, soybean hull, soybean oil, and more.
- Edible: Companies use soybeans to produce food products such as candies, cereals, baby food, canned foods, hot dogs, diet food products, imitation food products, and noodles.
- Non-edible: Soybean is useful in producing cleaning materials, adhesives, cosmetics, paints, crayons, pesticides, shampoo, plastics, detergents, livestock feed, soap, and wax.
- Prepared mixes include muffins, cake, margarine, cooking oils, and pancake.
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Farmers in the United States are growing more than 83.4 million acres of soybeans, indicating that soybeans are an essential crop for the country. Unlike other oilseed crops, US soybean farming is diverse and readily available to meet the food industry and consumers’ ingredient needs. Even though the crop is popular across 45 states, about 11 states had the largest share of yields, with Illinois, Iowa, and Minessota leading in soybean production.
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