What is soybean?

   Soybean is the common name applied to art annual leguminous plant, Clycine max (Soja max), native to S.E. Asia, and widely cultivated as a farm crop. It is an erect, bushy plant from 2 to 5 ft. in height and bears small white or purple flowers and pendulous pods containing two to four seeds. There are many different varieties, which vary principally in the size, shape, and color of the seed, and in the length of the growing period.
   The soybean contains vitamins, essential minerals, and a high percentage of protein.
   It is an important food crop in the Orient, where it has been extensively cultivated since prehistoric times. The plant was introduced into the United States at the beginning of the 19th century, but for many years it was grown only as a rotation and forage crop. With the development of the soybean-processing industry in the 1920's, many uses were found for the seed, and U.S. production increased rapidly.
   In the United States soybean oil is used largely in the manufacture of margarine, shortening, salad oils, paints, varnishes, soaps, glues, plastics, and lubricants. Soybean meal is utilized extensively in mixed feeds for livestock.