Soybean (Glycine max L.) is one of the most important oilseeds crop in the world. It is also known with various other names like miracle bean, wonder bean, golden bean, king of bean and people say that it is a golden gift of nature to humanity in terms of health benefits.
The soybean seeds contain 25 per cent oil and 45 per cent good quality protein and 35 per cent carbohydrates. Recently, it has been observed that soybean became an important world commodity. It is easy and cheap source of protein. This protein source is obtained from environment friendly crop as this crop can obtain nitrogen from atmosphere through the bacteria present in the roots of this great bean plant. The ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen in soil thus does not deteriorate soil health.
Soybean is a plant which originated in Asia especially in China. Now this miracle bean is cultivated all over the world mainly for its high level of protein and oil contents, therefore, it can play an important role in fulfillment of the oil needs of human beings. The protein obtained from soybean is fed mainly to livestock. Besides this, those essential amino acids which our body cannot synthesize, we mainly get those from foods that we consume.
Usually animals proteins have those essential amino acids which are required by our body but the interesting fact is that soybean protein has eight essential amino acids. So, soybean can be a good choice for those who love to be vegetarians. Apart from proteins and carbohydrates, they can provide a significant amount of iron, vitamin C, thiamine, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and manganese.
Soybean provides raw material for a number of industries that produces oil, margarine, cookies, biscuit, candy, milk, vegetable cheese, cosmetics and also in pharmaceutical products.
In United States, soybean cover an area of 30 million hectares (FAO: 2012). Other than United States, the major soybean growing areas are Brazil, China, Argentina, Indonesia, Korea and Japan. In Pakistan, soybean has suffered a setback and has, therefore, not been able to achieve a respectable position among the oilseed crops. Its cultivation remained limited to a very small acreage and showed a decreasing trend. In 1997-98 area under soybean cultivation was 6350 hectares which has decreased to 128 hectares in 2010-11. The statistics predict the same trend to follow in the years to come.
Now we talk about some beneficial effects of soybean on human health.
Soybean raises our immune functioning and help to control the cholesterol level, blood sugar and body fats.
Drinking soybean milk everyday improves intelligence (because soybean contains a large number of the “lecithin”, important part of human brain).
Help prevent from Alzheimers disease, strengthen human tissues and organs. It can even whiten the human skin.
Soybean facilitates normal growth and development in young children. If a baby is allergic to cow milk, soybean milk is a best substitute.
Soybean contains isoflavones and protease inhibin that minimizes the risk of developing certain cancers. For example endometrial cancer, prostate cancer and evidence show that it is the best thing to prevent breast cancer.
Food and Drug and Administration, USA recommend that daily use of 25 gram soy-protein may reduce the risk of heart disease as this protein source is slow in saturated fat and cholesterol.
Soybean seeds contain iron and zinc which plays an important role to prevent elder people from deafness.
Soybean oil is also used as mosquito repellent.
Proteins obtained from soybeans contain eight essential amino acids. It is considered as plant meat. It is best substitute to those who are allergic to animal meat.
Biodiesel is also produced from soybean oil with a ratio of 80% diesel and 20% soybean oil. This biodiesel has the ability to use in buses and tractors of up to 600 horse power.
In beauty salons, soybean oil is being used for massage. Anti aging cream is made from soybean protein along with Dead Sea material. This cream enhances elasticity of the delicate skin around the eyes and also protect against oxidation damage.
Soybean cultivation was started in Pakistan during 1970s. Since then, soybean could not play a significant contribution towards total oil production. The main reason is low area under cultivation and poorly developed marketing system. India has been giving great emphasis towards soybean production.
Due to increase in human population, the demand of edible oil is increasing whereas production is decreasing every year on per-capita basis. Pakistan is facing severe shortage of edible oil production locally. The local edible oil production is deficient and does not fulfill the rising demand of population. It is very doleful that Pakistan with agrarian economy and still deficit in edible oil. According to Economic Survey of Pakistan 2011-12, Pakistan is the 3rd largest importer of edible oil in the world, the import bill of edible oil reached $ 2.611 billion during 2010-11.
Government must encourage domestic production of oilseed crops to preserve foreign exchange reserves. It is necessary to announce such policies which can help in the increase in cultivation of oilseeds. Soybean cultivation has potential to minimize the decreasing production trend of edible oil. The weak policies of government and lack of farmers interests are main cause of failure of soybean cultivation in country. It is duty of every agricultural scientist to find out the right way that can help to increasing production of domestic edible oil in country.
Soybean has two growing season i.e. spring (last week of January – 1st week of February) and autumn (mid July-1st week of August). Soybean spring season will be going to start and this is the best time to propel the farmers to cultivate soybean and made Pakistan a self-sufficient country in edible oil production.
The writer is M. Sc. (Hons.) Agronomy, Department of Agronomy, University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Pakistan. He can be reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org>