Give peas a chance, Soybean

General description

Soybean is one of the most popular foods around the world due to its nutritious and medicinal values. There are over 2500 varieties of soybeans that come in many sizes, shapes, and colors. Glycine is a genus of eighteen slender, twining, or trailing perennial legumes that is under an annual legume of the pea family, Fabaceae. Most Glycine are native to Australia but extend to eastern Asia and the Pacific islands. The only cultivated species, Glycine max, commonly known as soybean is from East Asia, specifically Northern China. Soybean has been cultivated as food and medicine in China for over 5,000 years. It has been called the ‘golden miracle bean’ in ancient Chinese. The origins of the plant are obscure. However, it is believed to have derived from Glycine soja or Glycine ussuriensis, a wild plant of eastern Asia.

Soybeans were first introduced to the United States in the 18th century. Only until the 1900s did soybean become an important food for Americans. Currently, the major producers of soybean are the Unites States, Brazil, China, India and Argentina.

Horticultural practices

The twining perennial plant typically grow on bushy plants that are about 2 ½ feet, but could reach up to 6 feet tall. Plants under the significant share the characteristics of having alternating compound leaves composed of three leaflets. The alternate, trifoliate leaves are softly pubescent. Soybean has small, white lilac pea-like flowers in summer, followed by narrow, oblong, hairy seed pods containing two to four seeds. It has a long flowering period, up to forty days or more, but most flowers are produced in a much shorter time. Each soybean plant grows 60-80 hairy pods.


Soybean can be cultivated in most types of soil. However, it thrives in warm, fertile, well-drained, sandy loam type of soil. Like other legumes, the soybean plant adds nitrogen to the soil through nitrogen-fixing bacteria and historically has been an essential soil-enriching crop. Therefore, losses due to diseases could be much higher, but successful management practices, including cultural and seed sanitation techniques, chemical applications, and disease resistance genes, are helpful in reducing the impact of soybean pathogens.

Soybean cultivation would require several managements of early-season diseases on seedling diseases like seed decay during storage. It is found that root and stem rot can be observed when the soybean is infected by Phytophthora sp. Management of mid-season diseases like bacterial pustule, viral diseases, bean pod mottle, soybean mosaic, Sclerotinia stem rot, frogeye leaf spot, and soybean rust can be conducted during the middle part of the growing season when the new vegetative nodes on soybean plants develop approximately every three to five days until the fifth vegetative node. In a later stage, late-season diseases like soybean cyst, stem canker, sudden death syndrome, Cercospora leaf blight, anthracnose, charcoal rot are observed.

Soybean cultivation plays a pivotal role as a soil-enriching crop, although this practice is now less common in most industrial agricultural systems due to advance agricultural technology. The ‘Roundup Ready’ gene cooperates into soya bean genes with advanced genetically engineered soybeans. With the genetic engineering technology in America, the cultivation of genetically modified soybeans resulted in a reduction in the usage of pesticides. In addition, the genetically engineered soy resulted in better soil conditions with more excellent conservation tillage.

Malnutrition and food insufficiency has been the central problem of developing countries. Recently, there has been an increase in the interest in consuming plant protein products as one of the ingredients in the food systems throughout many parts of the world. In addition, if the person is lactose intolerant, the legume protein from the soybean and pea represents a potential alternative to replace the milk protein. Lactose intolerance is a particular barrier to the consumption of dairy. Furthermore, the protein content in soybean is about forty-two percent, which is fifty to fifty-five percent when defatted. Soybean albumins do not seem to be antigenic.

Diseases and pests

There are more than three hundred pathogens that attack soybean. However, only a few pathogens (bacteria, fungi, nematodes, Stramenopiles, and viruses) will cause significant economic damage.

Previously, when soybeans were not modified genetically, the worldwide loss due to soybean diseases was eleven percent in 1994, which increased to twenty-three percent in 2003. Therefore, several afford to be focused on managing early-, mid-, and late-season diseases. Namely early-season diseases like seed decay, seedling disease, as well as Phytophthora root and stem rot; Mid-season diseases like bacterial pustule, viral diseases such as bean pod mottle virus soybean mosaic virus, bean pod mottle, Sclerotinia stem rot, frogeye leaf spot, and soybean rust; Late-season diseases soybean cyst nematode, stem canker, sudden death syndrome, Cercospora leaf blight, anthracnose, and charcoal rot. Therefore, disease management was required to be practised in soybean agriculture to limit the production losses worldwide.

However, the yield quality has been improved with advanced biotechnology through genetic engineering. In addition, the genetically modified soybean has been found to resist many diseases. Advanced genetic manipulation shows further promise of improving resistance to diseases in soybean and keeping pace with the ability of nature to overcome it. With the involvement of biotechnology, traditional horticultural control practices like crop rotation have become less vital in most soybean-growing regions.

Application and uses

Soya bean is a source of complete protein for vegetarians, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids required by the body in the correct proportions and amounts to meet human needs for growth, maintenance, and the repair of living tissues. This is because plant proteins are now regarded as a versatile, functional ingredient or a biologically active component with more than essential nutrients in developed countries. Although soya beans were already grown in the United States in the year 1804, then they remained an agricultural curiosity for over a century. In East Asia and elsewhere, it is extensively consumed in soy milk, a whitish liquid suspension, and tofu, a curd somewhat resembling cottage cheese. In tofu, the protein is precipitated by the addition of calcium salts. According to the popular tradition in China, soya milk was developed by Liu An for medicinal purposes, although there is no historical evidence for this legend. Soy milk has a high concentration of isoflavones, which is the most important and unique benefit of soya milk. Soybeans are also sprouted as a salad ingredient or a vegetable and maybe eaten roasted as a snack food, commonly found in Korean cuisine. The young soybeans, known as edamame, are commonly steamed or boiled and eaten directly from the pod, usually found in Japanese cuisine as an appetizer.

Soy flour, made from the soybean ground that is finely enough to pass through a mesh, can be used as food extrusion of textured vegetable protein. There are two types of soy flour: full-fat soy flour and defatted soy flours and grits. Another downstream product is soy sauce, a salty brown liquid produced from crushed soybeans and wheat that undergo yeast fermentation in salt water for about six months to a year or more. Soy sauce is a ubiquitous ingredient in Asian cooking. Other fermented soy foods include tempeh, soy lecithin miso, natto, and fermented bean paste. In the preparation of miso, the sugars are modified in the fermentation process. Nowadays, modern research has led to a remarkable variety of uses for the soybean. Furthermore, the oil content of the soybeans can be processed into margarine, shortening, and vegetarian as well as vegan cheeses. However, the crude soya bean oil quickly turns rancid and gives green and grassy odors.

Soya bean is a protein source that is widely used, inexpensive, as well as a nutritional source of dietary protein. Soybean is used by leading infant food manufacturers because of its high nutritional value. In addition, it has cholesterol-lowering abilities in patients with type II hyperlipoproteinemia. Various soy protein products can be developed from the soybean as it is one of the richest and cheapest sources of protein that serves as a high-protein meat substitute in many food products. It is a staple in the diets of people like baby foods and vegetarian food as well as animals in numerous parts of the world. This is because soybean can be imparted with a meat-like texture for increasing the cooked yield of ground meats.

Soybean holds the future. It has been a long time transition for food industrial being converted into vegan products like soy nut butter and sweetened soybean. Roasted and ground soybeans can be used to replace those who are caffeine-intolerance. Moreover, the soya bean is rich in minerals and vitamins such as copper, iron, zinc, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. Most of the minerals and vitamins mentioned are categorized as hematinic acid and are essential in forming red blood cells. In addition, it can be used as livestock feed for animals like chickens.

Additionally, soya bean oil production has brought interest in manufacturing products like margarine, cooking oil, shortenings, and dressings. Furthermore, soy protein has been used for low supply cost and high-quality protein with critical functional properties. Industrially, the oil is used in paints, crayons and inks, soaps, cosmetics, resins, plastics, adhesives, fertilizers, sizing for cloth, linoleum backing, and fire-extinguisher fluids, among other products.

Besides, the food manufacturer has applied certain soya protein products that look for optimal functionality at the lowest price. One of the applications is used in meat, poultry, and fish products like finely comminuted products that incorporate soy protein products through reformed meat technology. In addition, soya flour and grits are used in the bakery industry due to their improved flavor and color and higher protein content. It is proven that soy flour enhances the tenderness and texture of the cake that retains the freshness longer in the bakery industry and sweet goods such as pie crusts, fried pie crusts, and puff pastry.

Furthermore, soy protein can be added to potato or maize products in snack food by increasing its soya protein concentration. Nowadays, soy protein products are used in sauces and ragouts instead of wheat flour or milk proteins to make a protein-enriched sauce base. Soya protein-based sauces and ragouts form the taste-giving part in many dishes and can bring a considerable variation between dishes, especially those with a less pronounced taste like potatoes, rice, and pasta meals, and fish meat eggs.

Nutritional values

Soya protein are proven to be healthy and wholesome food ingredients. Soya bean products offer several nutritional advantages, although the quality of the soy protein is only a little lower than that of most animal proteins. The protein efficiency ratio values and the net protein utilization are very close to those of casein, which is generally used as a reference protein. However, the quality of soy protein will certainly pose no problems in the varied Western diet.

Soybean has nutraceutical components such as lunasin, isoflavones, tocopherols, lecithin, saponins, sterols, and raffinosaccharides. These biological activecompounds that have several pharmaceutical and medical properties like anti-cancer, anti-oral, head, and neck cancer, hypocholesterolemic effect, anti-obesity, anti-breast cancer, anti-breast cancer, anti-osteoporosis, alleviates menopausal depression, as well as reduction in cardiovascular diseases and formation of gall bladder stones. The consumption of the soybean also may help tp to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and seed Parkinson’s diseases. Nowadays, due to its beneficial properties, it has been used in cosmetic application like skin moisturizer.

Further reading:

Visser, A., & Thomas, A. (1987). Soya protein products-their processing, functionality, and application aspects. Food reviews international 3 (1-2), 1-32.

Lalles, J. P. (1993). Nutritional and antinutritional aspects of soyabean and field pea proteins used in ceal calf production: a review. Livestock Production Science, 34(3-4), 181-202.

Egli, D. B. (2005). Flowering, pod set and reproductive success in soya bean. Journal of Agronomy and crop sciences, 191(4), 283-291.

Singh, G. (Ed.). (2010). The soybean: botany, production and uses. CABI.

Kant, R. A. J. N. I., & Broadway, A. (2015). The benefits of consuming soya milk – a review. Trends in bioscienes, 8(5), 1159-1162.

Etiosa, O. R., Chika, N. B., & Benedicta, A. (2017). Mineral and proximate composition of soya bean. Asian Journal of Physical and Chemical Sciences, 1-6.