Soybeans: The Ultimate Legume

— Written By Jody Carpenter and last updated by

Soybean field

If you’ve ever driven through northeast North Carolina during the summer months and wondered, “What’s in that field?”, it was probably one of three things: corn, soybeans, or cotton. If the drive was in Currituck County than that limits it to either corn or soybeans, as no cotton is currently grown in Currituck. The major field crops grown in Currituck are winter wheat, corn, and soybeans.

Soybeans, Glycine max, are native to East Asia – where they have been grown for thousands of years. The soybean is classified as a legume, which means it produces its own Nitrogen (N) via a symbiotic relationship with Rhizobia bacteria.

The uses for soybeans are endless; from lubricants to cooking oil and everything in between. A majority of North Carolina soybeans are exported to other countries. Data from 2012-2013, show that the US exported 1.7 Billion bushels of soybeans. Of that 1.3 Billion bushels were whole soybeans, 454 Million bushels of soybean meal, and 186 Million bushels of soybean oil.

The farmers are currently in the fields, dodging the rain, trying to get the fields planted. Soybeans, like any other crop, come in different types called varieties. These varieties offer a number of different characteristics ranging from disease resistance to herbicide tolerance. Herbicide tolerance is a critical characteristic to some producers, it means they can apply weed control without the risk of crop damage. This type of technology serves to benefit the farmer, the environment, and the consumers. By having a crop that is herbicide tolerant, the amount of herbicide used can be significantly reduced; indirectly benefiting the environment.

Although most of the soybeans grown in Currituck will end up as either poultry or cattle feed, those products will most certainly end up in the food supply. Food safety is one of the biggest concerns for every farmer and food industry worker. By growing and offering a safe and wholesome product we can assure that we “reap what we sow”.

If you have any questions regarding soybeans or anything else agriculture-related, I recommend reaching out to a reliable source. N.C. Cooperative Extension is located in every North Carolina county offering reliable, unbiased information directly from the land-grant universities, NC State University & N.C. A&T State University. Currituck County residents can contact the Currituck County Center at 252-232-2261 or email Jody Carpenter, Agriculture Extension Agent at