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Scientific Classification
  • G. clandestina
  • G. falcata
  • G. max
  • G. tabacina
  • G. tomentella
Glycine max (L.) Merr..jpg
Wild soybean

The soybean is an important agricultural plant that is used for vegetable oil and protein world wide, but perhaps best known for its use in soy sauce and tofu. Soybeans are any of the species belonging to the taxonomic genus glycine. The species Glycine soja was first domesticated in northern China, but Glycine max is now more widely used for agricultural production. Today, the main producers of soybeans are the United States, Brazil, Argentina, China and India.


fields of soybeans before production

Soybeans are very unique plants in the sense that they can range immensely in size. The plant can grow no higher than twenty inches prostrate or up to two meters high. [1] Not only are there various sizes of this plant, there are also different types and habitats in which they live. The one constant among all soybeans is the fact that they are legumes. When the soybean first comes into being it is a pod, but as it slowly matures, that pod will dry out and become a bean. These beans, which we know soybeans to look like, can range in color from the most common brown, to yellow, green, or white. [2]


The soybean is self-pollinating so it has been easy for people to keep separate breeding lines. Originally, it was a wild plant, but over the years it has become domesticated. To this day, there are still many varieties that differ in color, shape, and size. [3] The most common form of reproduction is alternation of generations, meaning that the haploid and diploid phases are both seen throughout the growth of the plant. The soybean is also unique because it has both female and male parts. The female part, called the pistol, contains the style, stigma, and stoma. The male part, called the stigma, contains the filament and anthers. Together, these parts work to form the new soybean. The anthers contain the pollen, and this is where the self-pollination comes into play. Although the plant can be pollinated by bees or other insects, it is most common for the plant to pollinate on its own. [4]


North America Distribution of Glycine max.

The soya bean, or soybean as known to us, is native to tropical and warm temperate regions of Asia. There are over 2,500 types under cultivation, and the climate is mandatory for the best possible growth. [5] The right type of soil is also a key for growth. Although the plant can grow about anywhere with hot temperatures, organic soil produces the best results. Being a legume, the soybean plant performs a process called nitrogen fixation. This process is performed by a symbiotic relationship with certain types of bacteria within the soil. [6]The right levels of nitrogen are mandatory for proper growth, and that is why the soil is so important. In the United States the soybean grows best in the corn belt area. If the plant is grown in the same area for two to three years, the crop will continue to yield more offspring in the following years. [7] One of the more interesting facts is that the soybean contains Rhizobium bacteria in its roots. This bacteria is what helps the plant change the gaseous nitrogen into nitrogenous compounds. If the plant did not have the ability to convert these gases it would die quickly. The right nutrients and balance would not be able to be reached. [8]


For many years scientists and health experts have known the affects that soy can have on ones’ health. Many vegetarians consume soy as a supplement for protein products such as meat, cheese, and eggs. The plant itself is a type of legume, but the uniqueness is that it is the only plant that contains all twenty-nine amino acids, making it a complete protein. [9] It also contains carbohydrates and fat, as well as vitamins and minerals, making it an all around excellent food. Not only is soy good for our diets, it also affects things like muscle repair and creation, skin, and hair and nail growth. The amino acids are responsible for these biological processes, and make this plant one of the most valuable crops around the world. It is used in everything from soaps, plastics, cosmetics, and bio diesel, to supplement shakes. Unfortunately though, almost eight percent of children in the U.S are allergic to soy. Although this bean can have very positive effects on the majority of us, the ones who are allergic to it may be in great danger. It is crucial for parents to check labels thoroughly because even the slightest consumption can have grave effects. [10]

One of the most well known soy products is tofu. It is a white gel like substance that is made from the processed soybean. Many vegetarians and vegans use this food as a supplement in cooking since it is so high in proteins and nutrients. In general the soybean can be very beneficial to us all. Researchers have found that it can be very helpful to those who suffer from diabetes. It has also been proven that it can help a person stay lean by causing the body to produce fewer and smaller fat cells. Another plus is the fact that soy can lower cholesterol, therefore preventing the hardening of arteries and heart complications. [11] It is important to remember that although soy is very beneficial to our health, it is not a miracle food. Many people become to obsessed with its health benefits that they eat too much. Just like with any other food, it is good in moderation and when paired with a healthy active lifestyle. Overall, the soybean is a great food that everyone should try at least once in their lifetime.



  • Glycine by U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • [12] by A to Z online health magazine
  • [13] by biodiversity explorer