Soybeans are the No. 1 cash crop in Tennessee, with more than 1.2 million acres planted and more than 48 million bushels harvested last year.
But what do we do with all these soybeans? The primary use of whole soybeans and protein from soybean meal is to provide a low-cost, high-protein feed ingredient for fish, poultry, swine, cattle and other animals. We humans enjoy the beans in tofu and soy sauce, as soy flour, and pressed into soybean oil, the leading vegetable oil in the world. Margarines, salad dressings and mayonnaise all use soybean oil.
But there are lots of industrial uses as well:
• One acre of soybeans can produce 82,368 crayons.
• One-half of all daily U.S. newspapers are printed with soybean oil-based ink.
• Soybean is used in plastics, wood adhesives and textiles.
• Soybean oil provides an environmentally friendly fuel for diesel engines.
• Soybeans also find their way into candles, cleaning products and hair-care products.
Today, farmers across the U.S. grow soybeans that have been harvested into yields of about 2 billion bushels a year. About half of U.S. soybeans are exported to major markets including the European Community, Japan, Taiwan, Mexico and South Korea. More soybeans are grown in the United States than anywhere else in the world.