Wonderful, magical world of soy (Editorial)

(Sept. 29, 2015) Soybeans are often referred to by their moniker, the “magic bean.”
And they have spent the last quarter century living up to it.
Since 1990, when Congress authorized the soybean checkoff program, more than 800 new soy-based products have been developed with checkoff funding.
In 2014 alone, the soybean checkoff helped commercialize 33 new products.
And the “magic bean” is far from showing us what it can do.
Two Maryland agricultural events showcased the versatility of “the miracle bean” thanks to support from the Maryland Soybean Board this summer.
The Washington County Ag Expo and Fair printed nearly all its material with SoyInk, a soy-based alternative to printing inks made from petroleum.
SoyInk is more environmentally friendly, provides brighter colors and may make it easier to recycle paper.
“Family Farm Day” in Baltimore County showcased soy-based products that can be used in the home in a “Soy Land” exhibit.
Soy-based materials from furniture to sunscreen, paint to paint removers, insulations, carpet and everything in between were shown in different rooms of a house – the kitchen, living room, office, play room, bathroom and garage.
The soybean provides a sustainable source of protein and oil worldwide. Soy’s properties allow its use in a variety of applications from animal feed and human consumption, to road fuel and other industrial uses.
The challenge ahead: The United Soybean Board has a goal to increase soybean production by 36 percent by 2025, which will require a 15-plus bushel per acre yield increase using currently available land area.
Increasing double-crop yields is one solution. Double-crop beans tend to yield 10 to 30 percent less than full-season soybeans due to late planting, which results in a shorter growing season.
University agronomists from five states – Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina — and the soybean boards of those states are working together on double-crop soybean production.
The goals are to identify the optimum growth conditions for double-crop beans for maximum yield without adversely impacting the small grains yield.
David Holshouser of Virginia Tech is leading the project, and Bob Kratochvil of the University of Maryland is Maryland’s state representative.
Holshouser was awarded USB funding last year to bring Mid-Atlantic region universities, state soybean boards and soybean farmers together to plan and develop priorities, coordinate activities and begin implementation of research across multiple environments.
Maryland also signed on to a project to create a regional research consortium.
With USB funding, Maryland and five other states — New York, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — will undertake the design, development and implementation of the organization this year, establishing the operating principles, leadership structure, standards and bylaws and future funding.
The purpose of the consortium will be to identify regional research needs; to support regional checkoff research activities; to improve leveraging of checkoff research investments; to ensure that key regional research needs are efficiently addressed; and coordinate research activities among state checkoff offices to reduce research redundancy and eliminate research gaps and gaps in research capacity.
Across the soybean industry there is a continuing research effort to develop more uses for the “magic bean,” for its oil, its protein and its meal.
Regionalizing that research, particularly to avoid a duplication of effort, is certainly a step in the right direction.