Soybeans originated in China. It wasn’t until the late 1800s and early 1900s that the Western Hemisphere started growing the crop. In the 1920s, soybeans were grown on approximately 1 million acres in the United States. Today, soybeans are the largest crop grown in Brazil, planted on more than 72 million acres, and the second-largest crop grown in the United States, planted on more than 70 million acres.
Soybeans are legumes. They are high in protein and oil, making it a very useful crop for feed for livestock and food for humans. In fact, every 60-pound bushel of soybeans produces 48 pounds of soybean protein meal and 11 pounds of soybean oil. The crop is also useful in replenishing the soil with nitrogen. These benefits swelled farmer adoption of the crop.
In 2012, the world consumed 181 million metric tons of soybeans as a source of protein. That’s the most ever, and up 100 percent since 1997. With current population trends and a growing middle class’s demand for more protein, the world will need more soybeans.
As crop adoption has grown, farmers, universities and seed companies have worked to improve the soybean plant’s ability to grow and adapt to various climates and conditions. Soybeans are grown in nearly every state in the United States and just about everywhere in South America, as a result of a focus on breeding programs.
With this as a backdrop, Monsanto is working on various projects that will aim to help farmers produce more soybeans by protecting the soybean’s production potential from weeds, bugs and diseases. Our soybean pipeline has projects that are designed to: provide herbicide tolerance in soybeans, which will enable farmers to control weeds in soybean fields; provide protection against bugs that eat the soybean plant; and deliver improved soybean oils. Monsanto sells both conventional and GM soybean seed to farmers.