Farm Horizons, February 1997

From field to the future, soybeans are versatile

By ANDREA VARGO

You probably don't sit around the dinner table and discuss the merits of the soybean.

If you did, you would have to talk about the healthy aspects of the bean, its future as a fuel or fiber, and the international feed market.

Health

Soy foods are cholesterol free and low in saturated fat. Evidence suggests that they could play a role in reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer.

More than 200 scientific papers have been published on the cancer-fighting properties of genestein, which is unique to soy. Genestein is a powerful anticarcinogen which directly inhibits a wide range of cancer cells and may inhibit tumor growth.

Because no other commonly consumed food contains genestein, it is necessary to eat soy foods to get its potential benefits.

Said Barb Overlie of the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council, "Soybeans also have the unique characteristic of containing all eight essential amino acids needed for human health."

Fuel

Years ago nations measured progress in terms of smokestacks.

Steam engines poured their smoke into the air as they powered machinery, ships, trains and even automobiles.

Air pollution was considered the price of progress for our world.

As times change, there is an understanding of the impact airborne pollutants have on human health and our environment.

Biodiesel or soy fuel, as Max Morris of the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute, likes to call it, is cleaner than regular petroleum based fuel.

This is another soybean research project that has seen some success.

Soy-based biodiesel-powered engines deliver similar torque, horsepower, and miles per gallon as petroleum-powered diesels, while radically lowering the emissions.

The soy fuel is so much like petroleum diesel, they can be blended in just about any proportion.

In fact, straight soy fuel could be used, but there is not sufficient materiel for a steady supply.

Additionally, the soy fuel does not require that expensive modifications be made to engines.

From an environmental standpoint, soy fuel provides an effective reduction in emissions.

"If you follow a truck using soy fuel, you will not see any black smoke, and it smells like french fries," said Morris.

Fiber

In Mankato, a wholly farmer owned co-op, Phenix, manufactures a product out of soybeans called Environ.

It can be worked like wood, and is used for countertops.

Other research is exploring the option of spinning the soy proteins like a fiber.

International

State and national checkoff funds are helping rebuild the soybean and soybean meal markets in Vietnam.

Checkoff funds have provided for the translation, printing and distribution of seven animal production booklets throughout Vietnam.

According to Doug Magnus, United Soybean Board producer-director, agriculture officials in Vietnam believe the leading issue in livestock production is the lack of information on the inclusion of soybean meal.

Tours for trade teams from Japan and China were hosted in the state recently As a direct result, orders were placed totalling almost five million bushels of soybeans.

This demonstrates the importance of checkoff sponsored international marketing programs, said J. R. Hanson, chairman of the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council.

The check-off program for soybeans divides money contributed by the farmers equally between the state and federal research and marketing programs.

It would appear that the program is moving in a successful direction. Most newspapers in Minnesota are printed in soy ink.

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