SOY-Bean Varieties Newly Developed for U. S. Farms

The acreage of soy beans in the United States increased from about 500,000 acres in 1917 to over 2,500,000 acres in 1924.  This enormous increase in the use made of soy beans in this country has been largely due to the development of better-adapted varieties. The number of real or supposed varieties has increased very rapidly in the United States during the past few years, resulting in much confusion concerning varietal names and characters. In many instances disappointment and loss have been caused to the grower by the lack of reliable information, and the soy bean brought into disfavor in some localities. At the present time about 60 varieties of soy beans are handled by growers and seedsmen in the United States. Varietal names greatly exceed the number of true varieties, for different varieties are often sold under the same name, and different names are often applied to the same variety.  It is therefore essential not only to know the name of a desired kind, but also its varietal characteristics in order to prevent substitution in purchasing seed.

Varieties of soy beans are differentiated largely by the color and size of seed, though they also differ in time of maturity, habit of growth, disposition to shatter their seed, disease resistance, oil and protein content, and in yield of forage and seed. They vary also in their adaptation to climate and soil. Some varieties are especially suitable for fertile land, others for less productive land; some for early planting, others for late planting; some for a seed crop, others for forage; some for planting with corn, others for planting with Sudan grass and sorghum. One may find a few varieties or even a single variety adapted to the climate of a certain section which will fill all the local requirements of the crop. No single factor has greater influence upon the success of the crop than the selection of the right variety to meet the needs and the conditions of the section where it is to be grown.

Only Eight Varieties Grown in 1898

Previous to the numerous introductions made by the United States Department of Agriculture, beginning in 1898, there were not more than 8 varieties of soy beans grown in the United States, namely, Mammoth Yellow, Ito San, Butterball, Guelph or Medium Green, Eda, Ogemaw, Buckshot, and Kingston. All of these varieties were rather limited in adaptation, and at present the Ito San and Mammoth Yellow are the only ones grown to any appreciable extent. In 1907, 23 varieties of soy beans were being grown, and of these 15 were introductions made by the department prior to 1905. Vigorous efforts were inaugurated about 1907 to obtain additional varieties through consuls, agricultural explorers, foreign seedsmen, and extensive correspondence with missionaries and others until in 1909 the department had in its trials about 200 distinct varieties; by 1913, 400 varieties; by 1919, 600 varieties, and by 1925, about 1,200 varieties.

FIG. 214.—Field trials of varieties of soy beans at Clemson College, S. C.

The records of introduction indicate that every Chinese village has its own distinct varieties. There is no seed trade in China, consequently local varieties are never widely disseminated. Undoubtedly numerous varieties are yet obtainable from the agriculturally unexplored villages of China, Manchuria, Korea, Japan, and India.

When new introductions are received they are thoroughly tested at Arlington Experiment Farm the first year, and if mixed, single plant selections are made for the second year’s test. After three years’ work with these selected strains, those giving the best resultsin comparison with standard varieties are disseminated among the State experiment stations, where they are grown again under careful observation and test conditions. Finally seed is distributed among farmer cooperators who assist the department in its practical field investigations. Varieties that appear promising in these field trials ultimately are assigned suitable varietal names and made available for general use and distribution in the localities to which they are adapted.

One Thousand Varieties Introduced

During the past 20 years more than 1,000 varieties have been introduced into the United States from China, Japan, Manchuria, India, Korea, Siberia, and the East Indies. Several of these have become established in American agriculture, either as direct introductions or as selections from introductions. Others, introduced in the past year have proven so valuable in trials that they are deemed important acquisitions and doubtless will become widely grown. It is universally appreciated and acknowledged by all soy-bean authorities that the annual introductions of soy beans into the United States have been of fundamental importance in the rapid rise of the crop in public favor.

FIG. 215.—A field of Otootan soy beans, one of the newer introductions by the United States Department of Agriculture

The soy bean lends itself readily to improvement. Considerable breeding work is being carried on by the department, several State experiment stations, and a few soy-bean growers. Although the Orient abounds with varieties, it is evident that they are the result of natural crossing and selection, as very little breeding work has been done. Introductions, for the most part, are admixtures, containing two or more varieties. The progeny of individual plants has shown decided differences in yield of forage and seed, in tendency to shatter, in maturity, and in oil and protein content.  Many new varieties have been introduced into the seed trade of the United States as a result of selection work. Some of these varieties originated from natural hybridization and a few are almost certainly mutations or sports. The most important of such varieties are Chestnut, Dixie, Goshen Prolific, Hamilton, Herman, Illini, Ilsoy, Lexington, Mikado, Minsoy, Peking, Sooty, Soysota, Virginia, Wilson-Five, and Wisconsin Black. Introductions without selection have given us the following important varieties:  Biloxi, Black Eyebrow, Chiquita, Columbia, Haberlandt, Hahto, Hoosier, Laredo, Manchu, Mandarin, Morse, Old Dominion, Otootan, Southern Prolific, Tarheel Black, Tokio, Wea, and Yokoten.

Work Justified by Results

The results that have been obtained by this wholesale search have justified the work and expense many times over. When the department work began, the soy bean was a very minor crop, and of importance only in limited areas, owing primarily to the lack of suitable varieties. To-day, its culture, due to a wide range of excellent varieties, is widespread and lends substance to the belief that the soy bean will become one of our major crops.

Table 24 shows the total value of soy-bean seed and hay produced in 1924 by varieties introduced and developed by the department.  These data, which do not include the value of the soy beans pastured or fed as silage, indicate that over half (52 per cent) of the total soy-bean hay and seed produced in the United States was obtained from these new varieties. The wide use that is being made of these varieties shows most conclusively the effect this introduction and breeding work has exerted on the development of the soy-bean industry in the United States.

TABLE 24.—Value of seed and hay of the principal new soy-bean varieties introduced and developed by the United States Department of Agriculture
Estimated value*Percent
of value
of all
hay and seed
Black Eyebrow1911228,317346,412574,7201.40
Tarheel Black1905205,580176,195381,7750.90
Wisconsin Black1898168,510124,650293,1600.70
* Values given are based on yields of seed and hay in 1924 and the percentage of varieties grown in the different States in 1923, Data obtained from reports of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics.