Soybeans in Kentucky
Soybeans are grown on about 1.9 million acres in Kentucky and brought Kentucky farmers $908 million in cash receipts in 2017. They are the number one crop currently grown in Kentucky in terms of value. Hay is the only other crop that is grown on more acres.
Soybeans originally came from China, where they had been grown for thousands of years. Americans began growing them in the mid-1800s, and they are now one of the top crops grown in the United States. Farmers value soybeans because of the rich nitrogen the plant puts in the soil for other plants to use.
Some Kentucky farmers plant soybeans in May and harvest them in September. If they have a crop of winter wheat or other cool-season grain, however, farmers will harvest the wheat in June and immediately plant soybeans in the same fields. Harvest is delayed until October or November, but this allows farmers to grow two crops in one year on the same land. The practice is called double-cropping. Once soybeans are harvested, they may be sold to a soybean processing plant or a grain elevator that will transport the soybeans to where they are needed.
Many of Kentucky’s soybeans are exported and shipped around the world to feed people and livestock. China is the top importer of U.S. soybeans.
The soybean is high in oil (20 percent) and is the only bean that has a complete protein (40 percent protein). This nutrition factor makes it a healthy choice for both humans and animals.
Whole soybeans can also be processed into soy milk, soy sauce, soy flour, tofu, tempeh, and miso. If the oil is extracted for food and industrial uses, the remaining protein, fiber, and carbohydrates are processed into soybean meal. Most U.S. soybean meal is used to feed livestock. Poultry consume the most soybean meal in Kentucky, but it is also fed to pigs, beef cattle, dairy cattle, horses, and fish, among other animals.
Soybean oil is one of the leading vegetable oils used worldwide and can be found in many American food products:
Cooking Oils & Sprays
Soybean oil is also used to make soy lecithin, which makes chocolate and other foods smooth and creamy.
Renewable soybeans are also used in many industrial products such as biodiesel fuel, particle board, soaps and cosmetics, printing inks, and protective coatings on CDs and DVDs.
Leading soybean producing counties in Kentucky in 2017:
Source: Kentucky Soybean Board, National Agriculture Statistics Service, and Economic Research Commission