History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in Canada (1831-2010)

William Shurtleff, Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-928914-28-0

Publication Date: 2010 Feb. 20

Number of References in Bibliography: 3,112

Earliest Reference: 1831

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Brief Chronology of Soy in Canada

1831 Jan. 8 – Soyfood products are first sold in Canada: William Scammell of Saint John, New Brunswick, advertises in the Courier that he has imported and is offering for sale “A few dozen India Soy" [sauce].

1850 March 2 – Worcestershire Sauce (which uses soy sauce as a major ingredient), made by Lea & Perrins in England, starts to be imported and sold in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada (Troughton 1850).

1855 – Soybeans may have been cultivated in Canada at this early date. T.V. Peticolas (of Mt. Carmel, Ohio) writes in two American newspapers: "... on the subject of the Japan Pea, or rather Bean. I have cultivated it for the last three years, and have disseminated it from Canada to Texas” (T.V.P. 1855). Unfortunately he gives us no more details.

1881 May – Ontario: Soja beans (soybeans) are first cultivated in this province or in Canada at the Ontario Agricultural College. They were obtained from Mr. Bruce [of the John A. Bruce & Co., seedsmen] of Hamilton. Yield: 15 bushels per acre (Brown 1882, p. 199).

1893 – Ontario: Soybeans (Early Yellow variety) are cultivated for a second time in this province. They are introduced by Charles A. Zavitz of the Ontario Agricultural College; he obtained the seeds from Prof. Charles C. Georgeson of the Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station (USA); Georgeson had obtained his soybeans from Japan. With these soybeans, Zavitz begins a lifetime of research on soybeans suited to Ontario, Canada. He deserves the title “Father of soybeans in Canada” (Zavitz 1894; Zavitz 1908; Zavitz 1927).

1897 May – William Saunders, LL.D., director of the Central Experimental Farm, Ottawa, Ontario, plants his first soybean trials. His first early soybeans were received from Peter Henderson & Co., seedsmen of New York, in the spring of 1897 (Saunders 1898). He soon begins sending soybeans samples to counterparts in the Dominion Experimental Farms system in other Canadian provinces (see 1898 below) for testing (Saunders 1898).

1898 April – British Columbia: Soybeans are first cultivated in this province (Sharpe 1899).

1898 May – Saskatchewan: Soybeans are first cultivated in this province (MacKay 1899).

1898 June – Nova Scotia: Soybeans are first cultivated in this province (R. Robertson 1899).

1898 – Manitoba: Soybeans are first cultivated in this province (Bedford 1899).

1901 – Zavitz starts to send soybean varieties to Ontario farmers for evaluation through the Experimental Union (McEwen et al. 1999).

1909 – Imports of soy sauce from Japan: About 250,200 liters of Japanese-style soy sauce (shoyu) are imported to Vancouver, BC, where an estimated 8,000 Japanese live (Yada 1910); they consume all or almost all of it. The best selling brand is Kikkoman (Yada 1912).

1910 March– Quebec: Soybeans are first cultivated in this province (Dimmock & Kirk 1934).

1910 – Two Japanese tofu shops are now making and selling tofu in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Unfortunately the names and addresses of the shops are unknown (Nichi-Bei Nenkan [Japanese-American Yearbook], 1910, p. 224).

1913 – Imports of soya cake. Canada begins importing small amounts of soya cake and soya beans from Asia, continuing until 1917 (International Institute of Agriculture, 1918).

1922 – Alberta: Soybeans are first cultivated in this province (MacConkey 1936).

1922 Nov. 16 – Soybeans are now cultivated commercially in Ontario, Canada. “Jeffrey Bros., and the Broadfield Stock Farm, near Whitby, Ontario, Canada cultivated nearly 100 acres of soybeans this year. People are growing soybeans in a commercial way in Canada” (Campbell 1922. p. 641).

1923 – OAC 211, a soybean variety developed by Charles Zavitz, becomes the first soybean registered in Canada. By 1939 six soybean varieties had been registered in Canada (Tanner 1993).

1925 Oct. – Vi-tone, “A delicious Malted Milk Chocolate-flavored drink [soymilk]. Rich in proteins and vitamines of the soya bean,” it is now made commercially in Hamilton, Ontario (Ad in Toronto Daily Star. 1925 Oct. 25. p. 10; Dimmock 1929).

1926 – Ontario: About 1,000 acres of soybeans are now grown Ontario, used principally as a substitute hay crop (Meharry 1926; statement by Prof. John Buchanan of Guelph).

1927 – Charles Zavitz and co-workers have now evaluated over 100 soybean varieties.

1928 – Soybeans in Canada: The main areas of production are the central and southwestern portions of the province of Ontario. Small areas have been grown in every province in the Dominion. Canada has imported annually, during the last 7 years, an average of about 5,000,000 pounds of soybean oil for use in the manufacture of soaps and paints (McRostie et al. 1928).

1929 – Amano Miso Seizo-sho, owned and run by the Amano Brothers, starts making miso at 2121 Powell St., Vancouver, BC. (The New Canadian 1941. Aug. 22, p. 8)

1930 March – Milton Oil Refineries Ltd., Canada’s first soybean crusher, begins operation at Milton, Ontario, Canada (Toronto Daily Star. 1930. March 1, p. 28).

1933 May – New Brunswick: Soybeans are first cultivated in this province (Dimmock & Kirk 1934).

1933 June – Prince Edward Island: Soybeans are first cultivated in this province (Dimmock & Kirk 1934).

1936 June 10 – Miyazaki Tofu-ten, Canada’s first tofu shop with a name and address, starts operations at 216 Gore Ave., Vancouver, BC (Hokubei Nenkan 1936. p. 254).

1936 – The first official soybean production statistics are recorded for Canada and for Ontario – 248,000 bushels (Soybean Blue Book, 1956, p. 30).

1939 June – Newfoundland: Soybeans are first cultivated in this province (Lloyd 1940).

1938 –Toronto Elevators starts crushing soybeans in Toronto, Ontario (Vinall 1982, p. 24-27).

1938 – Canada uses some 2.4 million lb of soybean oil, including 1.6 million lb in soaps and washing compounds (Soybean Blue Book).

1939-42 – As World War II begins, Canada experiences critical shortages of oil and protein. Soybeans grown in Canada offer a new source of both. In 1942 Ontario produces 871,290 bushels on 41,490 acres.

1942 – Manitoba, Canada: The province’s first soybean production statistics are recorded - 53,710 bushels produced on 2,510 acres. Production continues until 1945. Soybean production statistics are also first recorded that year for British Columbia – 4,500 bushels on 900 acres (Soybean Blue Book).

1944 Nov. – Victory Soya Mills, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Canadian Breweries Ltd., begins operations on Toronto’s waterfront (Toronto Daily Star. 1944. Nov. 20, p. 10). The company aggressively promoted the crop in the late 1940s and 1950s. However soybeans were slow to expand out of the traditional five-county area in southwestern Ontario (Tanner 1993).

1945 – Canada crushed 981,000 bushels of soybeans, increasing to 4.5 million bushels in 1949 (Soybean Blue Book).

1946 Nov. 8 – The Ontario Soybean Growers Association is organized at a meeting at Leamington, Ontario (Peck 1947, p. 8).

1946 – Canadian soybean production tops 1 million bushels, up from only 217,000 bushels in 1941-42 (Soybean Blue Book).

1949 – The Ontario Soybean Growers’ Marketing Board is reorganized from the 1946 Association. The "The Ontario Soya-Bean Growers' Marketing Scheme" is likewise established in 1949 under the “Farm Products Marketing Act” of Ontario. The Board’s membership grew from 1,722 in 1949 to 17,272 in 1991.

1951 – The soybean variety Harosoy in released, developed by Cass Owen at the Harrow Research Station starting in 1936. Harosoy dominated Canadian soybean acreage for more than 35 years (Tanner 1993).

1954 – Ontario soybean growers begin to seek export markets when the Ontario Soybean Growers' Marketing Board organizes the first export of Canadian soybeans to the United Kingdom.

1970-71 – Canadian soybean production tops 10 million bushels (Soybean Digest Bluebook).

1972 – Canada’s identity preserved (IP) program begins, pioneered by C. Itoh in Toronto exporting the Harwood variety, favored for making tofu and miso, to Japan (Epp 1984).

1976 April 1 – Maple Arrow soybean variety is registered. A ground-breaking variety with earlier maturity and improved tolerance to cooler climates, it is the first of the “Maple” series of varieties that enable soybeans to be cultivated northward and eastward, in areas with shorter growing seasons, expanding their range from southern Ontario (Beversdorf et al. 1995; Dorff 2007).

1976–1997 – Soybean acreage and production in Canada expand at a faster rate than at any prolonged period after World War II. This is caused by better prices, a new cash-crop mentality, improved varieties, better herbicides, better inoculants, and narrow-row seeding (Beversdorff et al.1995).

1984 – Soybean varieties developed by private breeders. In 1984, 24 of the 35 varieties recommended by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF) were developed in the private sector (Beversdorf 1984).

1985 June – Yukon Territory: Soybeans are first cultivated in this province (Loeks 1985).

1991 March – Victory Soya Mills, Ontario's largest soybean crusher, ceases operations and padlocks the doors of its plant on the Toronto waterfront (Yakabushi 1991, p. C1).

1999 Dec. 1 – Ontario Soybean Growers is the new name of Ontario Soybean Growers’ Marketing Board which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

2010 Jan. 1 – Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO) is created by the merger of Ontario Soybean Growers, Ontario Corn Producers' Association, and Ontario Wheat Producers' Marketing Board.

Current Status:

      The soybean is Canada’s most important grain legume crop.

      Most of Canada’s soybeans are produced in southern Ontario, with secondary production areas in eastern Ontario, southern Quebec, southern Manitoba, and Prince Edward Island.

      In 2008/09 Canada was the world’s 7th largest soybean producing country, producing 3.060 million tonnes (metric tons) of soybeans – about 1.3% of the world’s total.

      Canada has the world’s most advanced, integrated, pervasive, and trusted identity preserved (IP) program.

      Canadian soybeans for export are carefully cleaned and inspected; they contain less foreign matter than their U.S. counterparts.

      Canada is a world leader in export of premium-quality food-grade soybeans to Pacific Rim countries such as Japan, Malaysia and Singapore, where they are used to make tofu, soymilk, miso, natto, soy sauce, and other traditional soyfoods.

      Canada has a long-term program of breeding soybeans to fit the exact specifications and needs of different soyfoods industries (such as tofu or miso). This includes incoming missions of Asian soyfoods makers and outgoing missions of Canadian professionals, with continuing feedback aiming at ever higher soybean quality and customer satisfaction.

      About 65% of the soybeans produced in Canada are genetically engineered (Petrie 2009). Almost all of these are for non-food uses.

      For excellent histories of soybeans in Canada, especially during the period after World War II, see:

■ Tanner, J.W. 1973. “Where we are and how we got there: An historical review of soybean production in Ontario.”

■ Voldeng, Harvey. 1979. Soybeans in Canada – Past, present and future.

■ Tanner, Jack. 1993. “The first one hundred years.”

■ Beversdorf, W.D.; et al. 1995. “Soybean.” A history of soybean breeding in Canada.

■ McEwen, Freeman;… Tanner, Jack; et al. 1999. “125 years of achievements: OAC…” See also Soyascan interviews with J.W. Tanner in Feb. 2000 and March 2002.

Note: We have no record of soybeans ever having been cultivated in the Northwest Territories or in Nunavut – in northern Canada.

 

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