Because it is a legume, the soybean plant is a valuable tool in crop rotation. This means farmers can plant other crops in the space where the soybeans had been planted the year before and the nitrogen left by the soybeans feeds the next crop. As the soybean plant grows, it branches out in all directions and produces many leaves. The bushy plant grows from two to three and a half feet high. The stems, leaves and pods are covered with short, fine hairs. Small white or purple flowers grow where the leaf joins the stem.
Soybean production in Michigan totaled 54.7 million bushels, with per-acre yields of 35- 40 bushels being common.
Soybean oil is a popular vegetable oil in the United States. When crushed and pressed,
soybeans produce an oil that is used in margarine, cooking oils, salad dressings,
mayonnaise and many prepared foods. Soybean oil contains no cholesterol and is low in
saturated fat so it is popular with health-conscious people. Soybean oil is also
used to make paints, varnishes, soaps, cosmetics and plastics. Soybean oil is even used to
make ink for printing newspapers and magazines.
Photograph by Randy Schaetzl, Professor of Geography - Michigan State University
Like corn, soybeans are grown in the southern 1/3 of the state, in its "corn belt". Here, a warmer climate with a long growing season and more degree days combines with fertile, loamy soils and abundant summertime precipitation. Nationally, soybeans are generally grown wherever corn is.
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