History of Soy in the Indian Subcontinent - Part 1

by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi


A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and
Soyfoods, 1100 B.C. to the 1980s


Copyright 2007 Soyinfo Center, Lafayette, California

For updated and greatly expanded free information on this subject, on our website go to "Historical Bibliographies and Sourcebooks on Soy," then click on the corresponding subject. A lengthy book will appear in PDF format. It is searchable using Adobe Acrobat or AdobeReader.

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The Indian Subcontinent, also called "South Asia," includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sikkim, and Sri Lanka.

Historical Overview . Soybeans probably entered this region at a relatively recent date, after the year 1000 AD. The soybeans grown in the northern half of the subcontinent, most of which grow in the foothills and are black-seeded and procumbent, probably came from central China via either the Silk Route running across the top of the Tibetan Plateau then down into northern India from the northwest or, more directly, through the northeast tip of India (Assam) and Burma, then into Manipur and the Naga Hills just east of today's Bangladesh. The soybeans grown in central India were introduced from Japan, south China, and Southeast Asia, and have distinctly different germplasm from those grown in the north (Hymowitz 1969; Hymowitz and Kaizuma 1981; see also Chapter 1).

The earliest known reference to soybeans in this region dates from 1726, when the botanist Paul Hermann described and illustrated soybeans grown in Ceylon (today's Sri Lanka) in his Musaeum Zeylanicum . These soybeans, then grown on a very small scale, may have been introduced during the 1600s at the time of the Dutch occupation, when cultural practices were introduced from the Dutch East Indies (today's Indonesia).

At least in north India and Nepal, soybeans have apparently been used as foods for centuries (Hymowitz 1969; Panday 1975). The earliest efforts to popularize their use were made during the 1930s in India by Mahatma (Mohandas) Gandhi and by the Britisher Kale, working with the Maharaja of Baroda. Extensive nutritional studies, begun in India in the late 1930s, have continued to the present.

Commercial soybean production in this region began to grow starting in the late 1960s, with India leading the way, followed by Nepal. After 1972 India's soybean production began to skyrocket (Fig. ?.??). Starting in the late 1970s extremely original, creative work with soyfoods, perhaps the most creative in the Third World, began in Sri Lanka. From this time, India and Nepal also showed increased interest in soyfoods.

The very large vegetarian population of this region promises a bright future for soyfoods. Over 3,000 years ago, Hindus evolved a dietary system which forbade Brahmins (the priest and scholar caste) and the business classes, both of which led a sedentary life, from eating meat and, in many cases, eggs. They developed a largely lactovegetarian diet, containing milk and milk products. Moreover Jainism, which originated in the sixth century B.C., teaches the practice of ahimsa or "non-hurting and non-killing." The more than 2 million Jains, who live mostly in northwest India, generally do not eat flesh foods. Today in India, a largely Hindu country, an estimated 65-70% of the 600 million people do not eat meat or poultry, and an estimated 50% do not eat any flesh foods (meat, poultry, or fish). Brahmins, constituting 8-10% of the population, generally eat no meat, although due to Western influence, some male Brahmins may partake of meat when dining out; to many, however, the thought of eating meat is repugnant. In addition, most nonvegetarians practice vegetarianism 9-10 months a year out of necessity. Some also practice it at certain periods of their life or certain times of the year. Therefore while perhaps 50% of all Indians might eat eggs, meat, poultry, or fish if they could afford them, perhaps only 20% eat any of these animal products regularly. Thus in the 1970s only 12% of the protein in the Indian diet came from animal products; the rest was supplied by plants. Likewise in Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and Sikkim, largely Buddhist countries, and in Nepal which is both Hindu and Buddhist, the majority of the population eats little or no meat. In Moslem nations, of course, pork is not eaten. In all of these areas, where protein is expensive and in short supply, and where meat is an impractical protein source for the great majority of people, soyfoods offer great promise as a versatile and tasty source of low-cost, high-quality protein to which there are no ethical objections.

We will discuss the history of soybeans and soyfoods in India first, followed by the other countries of the region in alphabetical order.


Introduction . As noted above, little is known about when, whence, and by whom the soybean was introduced to India. Hymowitz (1969), who looked for early references to soybeans in India as he was looking for early references to guar (Hymowitz 1972), has noted that

Excellent clues to the antiquity of a cultivar in India can be found in its use in religious ceremonies, in its use in the various indigenous systems of medicine or in its having many vernacular names. Except for the kulti of Central India, bhat of the Kumaon Hills and gari-kalai of Bengal, Glycine max Merrill is commonly called soybean or soyabean throughout India. Soybeans are not used in any of the indigenous systems of medicine nor in any religious ceremonies of the major religions of India. Therefore, it must be assumed that the soybean is a recent introduction into India. It was probably introduced into India from Burma via the Naga Hills and Manipur.


By "recent," Hymowitz means within the last 800-900 years (personal communication, 1982). Subsequent research by Hymowitz and Kaizuma (1981) indicated that soybeans also entered northern India via the Silk Route from the northwest; they entered central India from Japan, south China, and Southeast Asia, and within the last 100-200 years were introduced by missionaries, especially British agricultural missionaries.

1668-1889 . Although locally-grown soybeans may have been used as food by indigenous people in the northern hill regions of India as much as 900 years ago, the earliest known record of soyfoods in India dates from the 1600s. According to Ichiyama (1968), early shipping records from the Hague, Netherlands, show that in 1668 twelve kegs of Japanese shoyu (soy sauce) were shipped from Japan to the Coromandel Coast in the vicinity of Madras, southeast India. In 1677 and 1681 shipments were made to Surat (a British trading post north of Bombay), Ceylon, and Coromandel. This shoyu probably did not enter Indian culture. It appears to have been shipped by the Japanese to the British East India Company's trading centers, then transshipped from there to England. In 1690 the Englishman Ovington in his book A Voyage to Surat (1696), after a long description of largely Indian dishes served at the British post, wrote that "Bambou and Mangoe Achar (pickle), Suoy the choicest of all Sawces, are always ready to whet the Appetite," apparently indicating that shoyu was widely used in India and held in high esteem, at least among the British. It is not clear if it was consumed or even perhaps made by Indians. Yet the term "soy" (meaning "soy sauce") was apparently fairly well known in India by 1886, for it appeared in Yule and Burnell's Hobson-Jobson: A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases.

The earliest known reference to the soybean in India was by Roxburgh in 1832. He described a variety growing in the Calcutta Botanical Garden, from a sample provided from the Moluccas. Henry Piddington's An English Index to the Plants of India (1832) did not mention the soybean or assign to it a vernacular name. In 1864 soybeans were first exhibited in India at the Punjab Exhibition in Lahore, having been sent from the Hill States. In 1882 soybeans sent from Hong Kong were grown on the Saidapet Experimental Farm in Madras, but the yield was small. The same year soybeans from Japan were tested at Saharanpur in the United Provinces, and by 1885 a black-seeded variety there gave a good yield of 1,124 pounds (18.7 bu) per acre. The soybean, however, proved unpopular in any form as a food. Yield tests were run at Nagpur, Central Provinces in 1885, at Madras in 1897, and at Bombay in 1901 (Hooper 1911).


De Candole (1883) believed, largely on the basis of Roxburgh's 1832 report, that the soybean had been introduced to India in relatively recent times, and had come from Indonesia. He was apparently not aware of the culture of soybeans in north India. In 1885 Paillieux reported that the soybean had a number of vernacular names; it was called Gari-Kulay in Bengali, Bhat in Hindustani, and Bhatwan in Sinhalese. In 1890 Watt, for the first time, reported that the soybean was extensively cultivated throughout India and in eastern Bengal, the Khasi Hills, Manipur, the Naga Hills, and Burma, often found as a weed in fields or near cultivation. Watt noted that, even among aboriginal tribes, this plant had numerous vernacular names, which were not modern derivations, indicating a more ancient origin of cultivation than had previously been thought.

1900-1919 . From 1900 on there was increased interest in commercialization of soybeans. The Indian Trade Journal of 29 July 1900 mentioned soybeans. In 1905 new fields were cultivated at Poona and in 1906 M. Fletcher, Deputy Director of Agriculture at Bombay reported a good yield (Itie 1910-11). After 1908, when England began large imports of soybeans from Manchuria, it was asked if India might also become a source. Lewkowitsch (1910), an expert on soy oils stated (probably erroneously) that soybeans were widely grown in East India and that when these farmers understood the demand for it in England they would produce large quantities of seed for export to Europe. His prophesy proved mistaken, in part because the soybean had not yet been adapted to India's expansive plains.

In 1911, the same year the Indian government moved its capital from hot and humid Calcutta to the more spacious and planned environs of Delhi, Hooper wrote "The Soy Bean in India," an article containing excellent information on the early history of the soybean in that country (see above). He noted that "There is no doubt that certain hill tribes, mostly of Mongolian origin, have cultivated the bean for a long time." He gave a list of the soybean's many vernacular names throughout India, noted that in 1903 an unsuccessful attempt had been made in Bombay to extract soy oil using a ghani or indigenous oil mill, commented that the introduction of the protein-rich soybean "into the dietary of the rice-eating people of India would be a benefit to the country" and stated that the burgeoning demand for soybeans in England would affect the Indian oilseed trade. Woodhouse and Taylor (1913) described in detail the soybeans widely grown in Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa and felt that cultivation could be most easily extended along the Himalayan foothills. They then gave the first description of food use of soybeans in India stating: "In Bengal, soy beans are used very little for food as they are said to be too heat producing. It is (sic) usually taken after frying over a heated sand bath as bhunja , but it is also heated, crushed, and then used as dal , and also as larua mixed with gur ." They concluded that soybeans were then "grown to a slight extent only in the Darjeeling hills."

In the central provinces and Berar??, soybeans were cultivated by the Indian agricultural department as early as 1911 on the Nagpur farm. Regular trials of soybean varieties were started on the Pusa Farm from 1917, but soon interest began to wane. In 1919 Bowers, in the US stated (without citation) that "For centuries the soybean has been used in India as a human food, and lately its use there has remarkably increased."

1920-1939 . Little was done with soybeans or soyfoods in India during the 1920s. In 1932 a new round of variety trials started at Agricultural Experiment Stations in Madras, Poona, Sakkar, and Coimbatore. But the first sign of a really strong interest in soybeans and soyfoods in India came in 1933 in Baroda State, just north of Bombay, where Mr. F.S. Kale, in charge of the Food Survey Department for the state, interested the Maharaja Gaekwar of Baroda in the many virtues and values of the soybean. In November 1933 the Maharaja became the first Indian leader or ruler to promote soybeans, when he held a royal soybean planting ceremony, much as the emperors of early China are said to have done. In the following years, the Maharajah, who understood India's protein problems, gave many lectures of the soybean's dietary and industrial importance and supported Kale's experiments with soybeans at the Baroda experimental farm. In late 1933 at the Baroda Exhibition, Kale and the Maharajah organized an exhibit of soyfoods dishes from India, Europe, and China. Leading newspapers and magazines from all over the country spoke in glowing terms of these dishes. Then at a large festival in Bombay a Soya Bean Preparation Restaurant was set up and sponsored by Mitsui Trading Co. of Japan. A similar restaurant appeared in the Baroda Rural Life Exhibition of 1936. The restaurants were such a great success that prominent citizens of Bombay asked Kale to open a soyfoods restaurant in the city and soymilk centers for children of the poor. They even offered to finance the scheme, but Kale's duties with the government made him decline. Shortly thereafter, however, a Bombay entrepreneur started The Palace Bakery: Soya-Bean Products, the first commercial business to use soy in Indian foods (Kale 1936).

Kale's work with soy attracted widespread attention. The Departments of Agriculture of the various provinces and many Indian States asked him to supply them with literature about the soybean and soyfoods. The Department of Commerce and Industry of Bombay wanted information about equipment for making soymilk. He was deluged with enquiries from individuals throughout India. Finally Kale realized he would have to deepen his knowledge of soy and write a full-fledged book on the subject. The Maharajah sponsored him on a research trip during 1935 to study the latest developments with soyfoods and soybeans in England, France, Germany, Austria, and the USSR.

Meanwhile, starting in 1935, Mahatma (Mohandas) Gandhi became interested in soybeans as a source of low-cost, high-quality protein in the vegetarian diet he advocated. He had learned of soy from Shri Narhar Bhave of Baroda (father of his famous nonviolent co-worker Vinoba Bhave) who was eating 6 ounces of cooked soybeans daily, and reported that they greatly improved his health. Starting in October 1935 Gandhi began serving whole soybeans (steamed for 2 hours) to all members of his community at Maganwadi; they were eaten with chapati or bhakari (defs??) for breakfast and with rice for dinner, seasoned with a little salt and oil. In late 1935 Gandhi wrote several articles about soybeans and soyfoods and published information provided by the Baroda State Food Survey Office in his popular magazine Harijan . The fact that Gandhi's community began growing their own soybeans, and that he praised the soybean's nutritional value and encouraged wider consumption aroused a good deal of interest in soyfoods in India.

In January 1936 in Baroda, Kale published India's first book on soyfoods. Entitled Soya Bean; Its Value in Dietetics, Cultivation and Uses , it contained 375 pages of excellent information including 300 Indian, European, and East Asian soyfoods recipes. Kale promoted the soybean as a food source, fodder for milk cows,and a soil improver. He saw it as playing a key role in the much talked-of programs of "Village Uplift" and "Rural Reconstruction." Soybeans were already being used, he said, as fresh green soybeans, and as dal (dehulled, split beans), sattoo , and ata (defs??). He had a long chapter on whole soy flour and its use to fortify chapatis, puris, rotis, bhakaris, and bhajias (fritters), foods consumed daily by the great majority of Indians. There was also a long chapter on soymilk (he fed his own child on soymilk for its first 3 months of life and put a smiling baby picture in his book) plus many recipes for making and using soymilk, tofu, soy sprouts, and other East Asian soyfoods. His many Indian soyfoods recipes were divided into seven regional cooking styles: Hindustani, Moglai, Gujarati, Maharashtrian, Bengali, Goan, and Tanjore dishes. Soybean Chutney, for example, appeared in several types. The book also had numerous quotes from distinguished nutritionists in India. The famous Sir Robert McCarrison, director of Nutritional Research at the Pasteur Institute, in Coonoor, south India, advocated the use of soymilk for infants, and the Bombay Presidency Baby Health Week Association in 1935 reported distributing soymilk to orphanages with good results (Kale 1936).

Kale's book was very successful. It was widely and positively reviewed by leading Indian and Ceylonese newspapers and magazines. A second edition was out within a year. Thereafter numerous articles on soy began to appear in the popular press and soybeans began to be served at a few schools. But it was estimated by 1936 that of India's 338 million people, less than one in a thousand had heard of soy (Gray 1936).

During the 1930s soybean cultivation was tried in the Sindhu basin, Baroda state, and the black soils of Maharashtra, but it did not become popular due to lack of knowledge concerning cultivation, marketing, and utilization. Most Indian users made the same mistake in introducing soybeans to their diets that Americans had made a century earlier; they tried to use soybeans as cooked whole beans, a way they were rarely used in any of the East Asian countries long familiar with soybeans, since they required much time and fuel to cook tender, and some people disliked their soy odor. Many Indians, not realizing this, undercooked the beans, which led to digestive disturbances. Usage waned, and by 1941 only about 20,000 acres of soybeans were being grown in India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Sikkim, primarily in the traditional hill areas (Ref??).

The growth of interest in soyfoods during the 1930s prompted Indian nutritionists to initiate studies on the nutritive value of soyfoods and to compare them with traditional Indian legumes and grains. The first such studies were done in 1937 and they have continued quite actively up to the present. The first investigations on "The Relative Value of the Proteins of Certain Foodstuffs in Nutrition," were published in several parts by M. Swaminathan at the Nutrition Research Laboratories, Indian Research Fund Association (IRFA) in Coonoor. The laboratories had been founded in 1918 by the Britisher McCarrison and they later grew into the famous institute, which played a major role in soyfoods research in India. Swaminathan showed the soybean to have higher protein quality than green gram and lentils, but to have a lower coefficient of digestibility than both. The second investigations, using nitrogen-balance and growth experiments on rats consuming mixtures of grains and legumes, showed mixtures of soybeans and rice to have the highest protein quality of any grain-legume combination. Basu et al. (1937) at Dacca did nitrogen-balance and growth studies showing that soybeans had higher quality protein than traditional Indian legumes. Aykroyd and Krishnan (1937), working at the same prestigious laboratories as Swaminathan in Coonoor, used soybeans as a protein supplement in the diet of school children. The soybeans were cooked until soft and served whole, like dal; they were reported to be well liked by the children. A similar group of children was given a similar diet using nonfat dried milk instead of soybeans. The children receiving the soy fortified diet, which was later shown to be deficient in various respects, lost weight, while those on the milk-fortified diet grew well. The authors recommended the use of more low-cost nonfat dry milk in Indian diets and concluded that " . . . the present experiments suggest that there is little purpose in encouraging the wider use of soya bean in India and that the present widespread enthusiasm for this legume is unjustified. From the rat growth experiments it appears that it has no advantage in nutritive value over certain pulses which have long formed part of the Indian dietary." Later in 1937 India's Nutrition Advisory Committee (Ref??) repeated Aykroyd and Krishnan's lack of endorsement for soybeans saying that they did not appear to have any advantage over various traditional Indian pulses, such as Bengal gram (garbanzo beans/chick peas), the country's most widely used and nutritionally important legume. This verdict constitute a major setback for soyfoods in India.

1940-1959 . During the 1940s, as World War II drove up rice prices and brought huge famines to parts of India, research on soyfoods continued. In 1941 to further elucidate the position, the Indian Research Fund Association set up a special Soya Bean Sub-committee to carefully investigate the nutritive value of soybeans. Original nutritional research on humans and animals was done at four centers: Coonoor, Dacca, Bombay, and Lahore. The research was done almost exclusively using whole soybeans. The IRFA's 35-page Report on the Soya Bean (1945), containing some 75 nutritional references, basically came to the same conclusion as the 1937 reports; the soybean had no nutritional advantage over common Indian pulses (especially Bengal gram) in terms of biological value or for supplementing rice diets. Thus the committee found no good reason to "advocate immediately the encouragement of the production of soya bean on a wide scale in India for use as a substitute for Indian pulses." The committee did feel, however, that additional research needed to be done on other soyfoods such as soymilk, soy flour, and soy sauce, especially since the Indian diet was clearly protein deficient. Various Western nutritionists (such as Mitchell, in Markley 1950) noted that the committee's report was "not above criticism because of the experimental technics employed" and that the nutritional findings were at variance with those from many other experiments done in Europe and America.

Despite this second setback, nutritional research on soyfoods continued in India. From 1946-1948 Desikachar, De, and Subrahmanyan did three human studies on the nutritive value of soymilk; positive and encouraging results were obtained. Desikachar and De (1947) discussed the "Role of Inhibitors in Soybeans." Subrahmanyan and co-workers (1958) discussed the use of soyfoods in preventing protein malnutrition in Indian children.

One of India's early soyfoods pioneers was Sasanka S. De. He first became involved with soy in 1943 during the great Bengal famine (5,000,000 people starved to death), when he worked with Dr. B.C. Guha of Calcutta University in making soymilk for feeding hundreds of starving infants. Before that time soymilk had not been widely used in India. The fine research on pilot plant production of soymilk done by De and his co-workers is described in detail in Chapter 13. Noting the excellent results from this work, the Food Department of the federal government established a subcommittee for expanding the production of soybeans in India and popularizing soyfoods, especially soymilk, soy flour, and soy oil. De and Subrahmanyan published an article on soymilk processing in 1945, then Deco-authored four more in 1946-48 with Desikachar on soymilk nutrition and trypsin inhibitors. In the late 1940s De went to Massachusetts in the US to continue his research as a fellow in the Department of Food Technology at MIT. In September 1948 he presented an excellent paper on "Soybeans in India" at the annual convention of the American Soybean Association; later appearing in Soybean Digest , it described his and other's work with soyfoods in India. In 1965 he wrote "The Present State of Protein-Rich Food Development in Asia and the Far East," with emphasis on soyfoods, and in 1967 (with Russell and Andre), at an International Conference on Soybean Protein Foods at Peoria, Illinois, he presented a paper on "Soybean Acceptability and Consumer Adaptability in Relation to Food Habits in Different Parts of the World." In 1971, while Senior Food and Agricultural Industries Officer for FAO at the United Nations, De wrote a 151-page bulletin on the Technology of Production of Edible Flours and Protein Products from Soybean , which described the manufacture of soy oil, defatted soy flour and grits, whole soy flour, soy protein isolate, soymilk, tempeh, and tofu, often on a scale and using equipment suited to Third World countries.

After the end of World War II, little work was done with soybeans or soyfoods in India until the mid-1960s. The new nation, independent since 1947, was busy with other projects. However, a major new program was in the works that would soon transform the role of the soybean in India. In 1947 India asked the US to help establish agricultural colleges similar to the US land-grant colleges founded in 1862 (see Chapter 36). Six distinguished US land-grant universities agreed to help. Funding came initially from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and later from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. By sharing the still revolutionary basic philosophy and know-how of the US land-grant universities with India to develop a new breed of practical education stressing the dignity of labor, the close interrelatedness of teaching, research, and extension work and above all service to the people, the US hoped to help India add agricultural independence to political independence. The story of this remarkable example of international cooperation and higher education is well told in Hadley Read's Partners with India (1974). In 1952 the first contract between AID and a US university (Illinois) was signed and in 1955 the University of Illinois signed an AID contract to work with Uttar Pradesh to build an agricultural university.

1960-1969 . The plans began to materialize in the early 1960s. In July 1960 Uttar Pradesh Agricultural University at Pantnagar, U.P. (northeast of Delhi) became the first of the new universities to open; in 1972 it was renamed G.B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology in honor of Uttar Pradesh's chief minister, who played a pioneering role in its founding. In 1964 Jawaharlal Nehru Agricultural University (in India generally called Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya) was officially inaugurated at Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, and the University of Illinois signed an AID contract to assist this new university as well.

In the early 1960s, as soybeans in India began to enter a new and exciting era, minor acreages continued to be grown in their traditional hilly areas in north and central India: isolated areas of the Punjab; the Kumaon Hills on the border of Tibet and Nepal in North Uttar Pradesh; the area around Seoni, Chhindwara, and Nagpur in Madhya Pradesh; the Poona district of Maharastra; and in the Naga Hills and Manipur on the border of East India and Burma. Most of these soybeans were black-seeded, viny types, having a procumbent habit and a long duration of growth, and most were consumed locally as food or used for forage. In the late 1950s it was estimated that roughly 6,000 tonnes of soybeans were produced on 17,500 hectares (43,225 acres). The lack of progress in soybean cultivation was attributed to the low yield of the available varieties, the lack of short-season erect varieties, the lack of commercial markets which caused many farmers to feed the soybeans to their cattle, and the absence of processing facilities (Leng 1968; Hymowitz 1969; Indian Farming 1969). In 1969 Hymowitz studied the soybeans of the Kumaon Hills, where black-seeded viny soybeans were grown from early June to mid-October at elevations of 3300-7500 feet. These farmers knew of yellow-seeded soybeans but preferred the black-seeded ones, which they believed grew better, yielded better, and tasted better than the yellow soybeans. The Kumaonis fully understood the nutritional value of the soybean and used it to supplement their diet based on cereal grains. They made soy flour and mixed it with wheat flour, cooked fresh green soybeans, cooked whole soybeans like lentils, and roasted whole soybeans for use like soynuts or in a spiced rice dish. They also fed the green soybean leaves, straw, boiled seeds, and ground seeds to milch cows.

Two factors set the stage for potential interest in soybeans in India in the 1960s. First, in about 1965 new "Green Revolution" varieties of high-response Mexican dwarf wheat was introduced to India. Wheat acreage expanded dramatically and greatly improved India's capacity for meeting the people's needs for food calories. This clearly demonstrated how improved seeds combined with an internationally-funded agricultural and extension program could quickly and substantially improve output of a food crop. Second, awareness of India's "protein gap" was increasing. Dr. H.A.B. Parpia (Ref??), director of CFTRI in Mysore, estimated that 80% of India's young children suffered from various degrees of protein malnutrition. Moreover as high yielding wheat acreage expanded, often taking the place of less profitable pulses, both Indian nutritionists and USAID personnel became concerned about protein deficiencies that might result. So interest turned to the soybean as a plant which might allow farmers to compete with the high-yielding varieties of wheat, and later rice. At the same time they recommended the introduction of soy-fortified foods such as Bal-Amul and Bal-Ahar, described later.

The origins of India's modern soybean production success story can be traced back to 1963-64. In the rainy seasons of those years Mr. Ed Bay, USAID/Illinois Team Extension Advisor made small scale and informal variety trials at Pantnagar to see if soybeans would grow there. Yields were very low (ca. 675 kg/ha or 600 lb/a). However in 1965 Dr. W.D. Buddemeier and Dr. Earl Leng, both University of Illinois agronomists at the new agricultural universities at Pantnagar and Jabalpur respectively, did more extensive trials using US soybeans, and the first promising yields appeared. Clarke 63 produced 1,443 kg/ha (21.41 bu/a) at Pantnagar and three varieties yielded from 1,570 to 1,644 kg/ha (23.3 to 24.4 bu/a) at Jabalpur. In 1966 yields again rose dramatically. Bragg at Pantnagar reached 3,593 kg/ha (53.3 bu/a), much better than the Illinois state average of 1,873 kg/ha (27.8 bu/a). Two other varieties yielded near 3,000 kg/ha (43.5 bu/a). Equally impressive was the fact that the soybeans took only 97 to 111 days to maturity, as compared with 134-149 days in the southern USA and Brazil. Also the soybeans were unusually rich in oil and low in protein, which was seen as desirable in a country where they were most in demand as a source of soy oil. These findings gave the first clear indication of the great potential of the soybean in northern India. In retrospect it was found that the key to the rising yields, seed size, and protein content during the 1960s lay in improved strains and techniques of Rhizobia inoculation and inoculum buildup in the fields (Leng 1968, 1969, and 1982 personal communication).

During the late 1960s it was also found that the soybean fit very nicely into India's climate and cropping patterns. The average 76-127 cm (30-50 inches) a year of rainfall found in most of north and central India was close to ideal for growing soybeans without irrigation. The early maturing soybeans, planted in June, were ideally suited for a two-crops-a-year rotation with wheat. Most traditional rainy season ( kharif ) crops did not mature in time for the land to be prepared for sowing wheat, causing millions of acres of land to lie fallow during the season of most ample rainfall. Thus soybeans could be grown without replacing other crops. And the soybeans yielded 4-8 times as much protein per unit area of land as common Indian pulses, plus large quantities of vegetable oil. The American agronomists were quite surprised to discover that US soybeans, some best suited to Illinois latitudes, did so well in India, where Pantnagar in the north was on about the same latitude as New Orleans or northern Florida (Leng 1969).

Encouraged by these extremely promising findings, in 1967 the All-India Coordinated Research Project on Soybean was started as a team effort to develop the soybean as a new protein food source. The project, with headquarters at Pantnagar, was a joint venture between the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the two Illinois-assisted universities (G.B. Pant and JANU), USAID, and the University of Illinois, with help from the Indian Ministry of Agriculture. Dr. M.C. Saxena, an agronomist, was the program's coordinator. There were three main centers of work (Jabalpur, Pantnagar, and Delhi), eight sub-centers, and three voluntary centers. In the following years departments of agriculture in the states of India, many additional universities, and various other organizations entered this cooperative program. Through the coordinated efforts of plant breeders, agronomists, botanists, pathologists, entomologists, rhizobium microbiologists, and agricultural engineers, yields on test plots were brought to very favorable levels, averaging up to 49.1 bu/a (3,310 kg/ha). Agricultural economists and extension workers cooperated to expand and market the crop, while food technologists, food processors, industrial engineers, and home economists worked to introduce soyfoods to the Indian diet (Hittle 1975).

Results in terms of expanded soybean production were quick to appear. Area planted to newly introduced seeds had grown from less than 1 hectare in 1965 to between 300 and 400 hectares in 1968, then up to a remarkable 5,000-8,000 hectares (12,000-20,000 acres) in 1969. That year there was a great rush by farmers to plant soybeans; the demand for seed was five times the supply (Streeter 1969).

In September 1969 Indian Farming , ICAR's well-known agricultural journal, published an entire issue on soybeans, covering every aspect of production, marketing, and utilization. All the articles were by Indians. The antibiotics industry was seen as an immediate outlet for up to 12,000 tonnes of soybeans for use in culture media, especially for Actinomycetes. In India, one of the world's largest producers of oilseeds (especially peanuts), and a major importer, the soybean was seen as having great potential, especially in the vanaspati (cooking margarine or shortening) industry. Intercropping of soybeans with corn (maize) was discussed.

During the 1960s Indian researchers continued their tradition of nutritional research on soyfoods. The unfavorable findings of the late 1930s and mid-1940s seemed to have been forgotten. Important work was done by Krishnaswamy (1960 Redf??), Shurpalekar (1961-65), Parthasarathy et al (1964a,b,c), Panemangalore (1964, 1967), Doraiswamy (1964), Narayana Rao (1964), and Swaminathan (1967). Citations not given in this book can be found in Smith and Circle (1978, p. 260-77). Scientists at the Central Food Technological Institute (CFTI) were particularly active in using soy to fortify the protein of peanuts and other indigenous legumes. Aykroyd and Doughty's Legumes in Human Nutrition , published by FAO in 1964, featured soyfoods and was a widely used sourcebook.

Starting in the late 1960s with production growing rapidly, increased attention was given to marketing and utilization, with emphasis on creating soyfoods that could help solve some of India's nutrition and balance of trade problems. India's first widely used soy-containing foods were the PL 480 cereal-soy blends such as CSM and WSB, which started to be imported from the US in the late 1950s?? and were used extensively in feeding and relief programs. In 1974, for example, India imported over 34,000 tonnes of these products, and was one of the world's largest users. During the mid-1960s, as concerns with India's "protein gap" grew, soy-fortified Bal-Ahar and Bal-Amul ( Bal means "child or baby"; Ahar means ?? and Amul means ??) were introduced, having been developed with the help of CFTRI in Mysore and made by a farmer's cooperative in Gujerat. By 1976 40,000 tonnes of Bal-Ahar weaning food were being produced (Orr 1977; for details see Chapter 29). During the 1960s roughly 100,000 tonnes of soy oil a year were imported by the State Trading Corporation, mostly for use in vanaspati, and an additional 14,000 tonnes a year were imported by international agencies such as CARE. Large quantities (how much??) of cereal-soy blends were also imported from the US under PL 480 programs.

During the late 1960s, most of the soybean crop was being used as seed to expand production. But soon the question of developing food uses arose, and was stimulated by interest from USAID and the Illinois team. Attempts were made to encourage large Indian and US food companies to start making soyfoods, but after studying the matter they decided the risks were too great. In 1967 Steinkraus, van Veen and Thiebeau from Cornell University published the first research on the use of soybeans in traditional Indian fermented foods. They substantially improved the protein content of idli, a sort of wheat-free sourdough bread, by using soybeans instead of black gram together with the rice. During the 1970s additional research was published on using soybeans in dosa and dhokla (Defs??) (Ramakrishnan 1976, 1979; Akolkar 1977), other fermented foods, as detailed in Chapter 25. Unfortunately, as of 1982, little practical application had been made of these promising ideas, in part because soybeans and soy flour were not yet widely available in Indian markets.

At one point in the late 1980s the Oil Mills Division of Swift (now Esmark) developed detailed plans for a major, modern solvent extraction plant near Delhi, in collaboration with Modi Industries, a major cloth and fiber manufacturer. Swift's board of directors vetoed this plan at the last minute. Leng (1982, personal communication) feels that had the plant been established, India would surely today parallel Brazil (though on a smaller scale) as a major soybean producer.

To help introduce soybeans and soyfoods to the Indian diet, Indian authors wrote a number of recipe books. The first of these, which was the first soyfoods cookbook ever published by Indians and the first such book since Kale's monumental work in 1936, was Handbook on Soyabean Recipes (1969) by the Home Science Wing of the Up-graded Gramsevaks Training Centre at Dharwar, Mysore. Published by the Government of Mysore, Department of Agriculture, the booklet contained 26 recipes, almost all using the soybean as dal or soy flour in traditional recipes. The Central Food Technological Laboratories at Mysore also did much to popularize and develop soyfoods dishes adapted to India ( Technical Bulletin 1951-52 Ref??).


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