“When the soybean crop is made”: Iowa Soybean Month being celebrated in August

While corn takes up nearly 14 million acres of Iowa’s farmland, soybeans come in second, sitting at around 9.5 million acres and yielding about 550 million bushels each year. As one of Iowa’s main commercially-grown crops, soybeans have many uses for human and animal consumption. 

August is a critical growing month for soybeans, as we can start to tell how the crop will look leading up to the harvest season. Proclaimed by Gov. Kim Reynolds year after year, August is also Iowa soybean month, and as the month of commemoration comes to an end, it is essential not to look past the benefits that soybeans bring to the table. 

Here are just a few uses for the versatile oilseed as described by the North Carolina Soybean Association: 

Human consumption

Soybeans are used in a variety of ways for people to consume. It can either be crushed into soybean meal or boiled into oil. Bean oil is commonly used in cooking oil or margarine, making it a suitable product around the kitchen. If you look at the ingredients in your salad dressing or mayo, sure enough, you will find that they also contain soybean oil. 

Soybean oil also comprises polyunsaturated fatty acids, and studies have shown that oils containing this type of fatty acids are more heart-healthy and lower the risk of heart disease.

Animal Consumption

Soybeans provide a high-fiber diet for livestock on feeding operations. Anything from chickens to pigs to cattle will likely have soybeans as part of their diet. More than half of soybeans processed for livestock are used in poultry feed, with around one quarter used for swine and the rest being fed to beef and dairy cattle, or used in pet food. 


Recently, there has been a significant push to mitigate climate change, and farmers are helping lead the way with cleaner fuel options. Soybean oil has been increasingly blended with diesel to create a more environmentally-friendly fuel. The combusted fuel releases fewer greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than traditional diesel. 

Another great thing about growing soybeans, that does not yield a direct product, is the practice of crop rotation. While we have many cornfields in Iowa, we also have soybean fields, which are often rotated with corn to balance nutrients in the soil. 

Corn plants rely on nitrogen in the soil to grow adequately, so nitrogen is depleted from the earth when corn is planted. To get the nutrients back, farmers can artificially add nitrogen back into the soil by applying fertilizer or planting soybeans in the same field the next season to add nitrogen back into the ground naturally. After harvest, dead roots, stems and leaves from soybeans break down through compositions, causing nitrogen to be released into the soil.

Planting soybeans to add nitrogen in the soil can help lower input costs to grow corn the following year, especially when fertilizer prices become more expensive, which we can see this year. It will always depend on the operation’s needs on whether a farmer will decide to plant corn again or rotate the field with soybeans. 

Research is always being done to improve the quality of soybeans and discover new uses. Soybeans are a major part of the backbone of Iowa’s economy as the state’s hefty production of the crop works to feed and fuel the world. 

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