Friedrich Haberlandt - History of His Work with Soybeans and Soyfoods (1873-2019)

William Shurtleff; Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1948436-12-0

Publication Date: 2019 Dec. 5

Number of References in Bibliography: 347

Earliest Reference: 1873

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Brief Biography of Friedrich J. Haberlandt

Professor Friedrich Haberlandt of the University of Vienna awakened Europe to the potential of the soybean and soyfoods and initiated the first extensive soybean cultivation trials. The results of his work appeared in his magnum opus Die Sojabohne ("The Soybean"), published in 1878. His work played a major role in the culture of soybeans in Europe and in stimulating further research on soyfoods nutrition and utilization. Haberlandt's writings contain a surprisingly large amount of material about soyfoods, hitherto never translated into English. Haberlandt predicted that soybeans and soyfoods would play an important role in Western diets, eventually coming to be widely used as a supplement to the carbohydrates of the potato, at least in the diets of the poor, providing an abundance of essential and low-cost protein, fat, and energy.

Biographical Sketch. Gottleib Friedrich Johann Haberlandt was born on 22 February 1826 at Bratislava (called Pressburg in German), a city on the Danube in Slovakia, Czechoslovakia. He studied at the agricultural college in Hungarian-Altenburg, where he was active from 1851-53 as assistant professor and from 1853-69 as professor. In 1860 he published his first important work, The Most Important Plants and Weeds Classified by Where They Grow. On the basis of his work with silkworm diseases he was invited in 1869 to be director of the newly established sericulture (the production of raw silk by raising silkworms) research station at Goerz. In 1871 he published Mulberry Silkworms: Their Rearing and Diseases. In 1872 he was invited to be professor of agronomy and applied botany at the newly established Royal College of Agriculture in Vienna (Wiener Hochschule fuer Bodenkultur). From 1873-74, as Chancellor, Haberlandt was one of the most distinguished followers of the school of Justus Liebig, who established the close association of theory and practice as the basis of agronomy. Haberlandt's areas of specialization included research on seed germination and transpiration in cultivated plants, the promotion of agricultural seed exchanges, and studies in soil science. In 1875 and 1877 he published "Scientific and Practical Research on Plant Cultivation." The last years of his life were devoted to the promotion of soybean cultivation in Austria and Germany. Haberlandt died on 1 May 1878.

He was the father of Gottleib Haberlandt (1854-1945), a professor of botany in Berlin, and of folklorist Michael H. Haberlandt. He was grandfather of Edith Haberlandt and of the physiologist Ludwig H. Haberlandt, all of whom became famous in their fields (Santifaller 1959 - Oesterreichischer Biographisches Lexikon).

Early Work with Soy. Haberlandt apparently first became interested in soybeans in 1873, when he obtained seeds of 19 soybean varieties at the Vienna World Exposition. He may have seen a pamphlet about soybeans and soyfoods written in French by a Chinese for the Exposition. Haberlandt's 19 varieties included 13 from China (five yellow, three black, three green, two brown), four from Japan (three black, one yellow), one from Transcaucasia (between the Black and Caspian Seas; one black), and one from Tunis (capital of Tunisia; one green). Note that most of the soybeans were not today's typical yellow-seeded types.

On 26 April 1873 he wrote his first article about soybeans titled Die chinesische Oelbohne (literally “The Chinese oilbean”) in the prestigious scientific journal Wiener Landwirthschaftliche Zeitung (Vienna) (Vol. 23, No. 17, p. 166). He pointed out that this bean is noteworthy because of its strikingly high content of oil and proteins.

In 1875 Haberlandt began what became an extensive series of experiments with these seeds. He began by planting some of them in the experimental garden of the Royal College of Agriculture in Vienna. Only four matured, all from China: two yellow, one black, and one brown. The black was so late that it matured with few seeds. In early 1876 Haberlandt published a detailed account of his first trials and analyses of the oil and protein content of the seeds in the Wiener Landwirtschaftliche Zeitung (No. 9, p. 87-89). Titled "Der Anbau der Rauhaarigen Sojabohne" ("Cultivation of the Rough-Haired Soybean"), this was his first publication on soybeans.

In the spring of 1876 the two yellow and brown varieties were tested by seven cooperators in Hungary, Bohemia, Steirmark, Bukowina, Moravia, and Silesia, with favorable results in each case. In 1877 seeds of all four varieties were distributed to 160 cooperators, mostly in Austria-Hungary, but some in Germany and Russian Poland, and one each in Switzerland and Holland. Most of the tests gave promising results, and in 1878 thousands of farmers were able to participate in the planting experiments. All of the varieties that Haberlandt was able to mature were short-season varieties, which in general are much lower yielding than later sorts (Piper and Morse 1923).

In 1877 Haberlandt published more extensive information about his work in a 25-page article "Der Anbau der Rauhaarigen Sojabohne" ("Cultivation of the Rough-Haired Soybean"), which appeared in an agricultural experiment station bulletin. He noted that soybean cultivation experiments were already being made in France at Ariege and Haut-Garonne, and that many years ago such experiments had been done unsuccessfully at Hohenheim, Germany (a suburb of Stuttgart and site of an agricultural university). He also discussed at some length the nutritional value and food uses of the soybean. In fact, the article began with the statement, "Among nutritious plants, the soybean stands in the first rank, for no other legume nourishes so many people nor has such great nutritional value or so many food uses." He went on to discuss the sweet soy sauce imported from Japan to India and then to other European countries; the fact that soybeans contain no starch and thus do not become soft upon cooking; their possible use in Polenta - a mush made from chestnut meal, cornmeal, semolina, or farina; and the fact that soybeans roasted at 160*C taste delicious and, when ground, make the best known coffee substitute. He also demonstrated the soybean's nutritional value with detailed nutritional analyses.

Die Sojabohne. In 1878 Haberlandt published his most important work on soybeans and soyfoods, Die Sojabohne: Results of Studies and Investigations on the Suitability for Cultivation of this Newly Introduced Crop Plant. The 119-page book is primarily about research in Central Europe from 1876-1877 regarding cultivation of soybeans and their adaptability to this geographical area. A lesser amount of space is devoted to the discussion and promotion of utilization of soybeans as a food for humans and livestock. Part 1 concerns soybean composition, previous cultivation research in Europe, and soybean seed collections. Part 2 reports on cultivation research from many cooperators in Central Europe during 1875 and 1876. Part 3 summarizes 150 cultivation reports from cooperators in 1877. Part 4 is a summary of basic findings. There are two long sections about soyfoods: in Part 1 (pp. 10-14) and Part 4 (pp. 106-109). Some of the information on soyfoods comes from the publications of the French Society for Acclimatization.

In Part 1 Prof. Haberlandt states:

The value of soybeans results from their high content of the most important nutrients. The first analysis of the composition of these seeds that became known in Germany was carried out by (Mr.) Senff using seeds obtained directly from Japan by Mr. Berndt. The results of this analysis were first published in 1872 in a journal or yearbook called Chemischer Ackersmann ("Chemical Farmer," p. 123). [The tests showed soybeans to contain 38.29% protein and 18.71% oil.] There are few statements in the pertinent literature concerning soybean utilization. But there is no doubt that, in their native countries, they have heretofore been used exclusively as foods. In Synopsis der Pflanzenkunde ("Synopsis of Experience with Plant Culture;" 1877, Hannover, Vol. 2, p. 413), Dr. Johannes Leunis says that soybeans taste good and are also used to make a thick brown sauce, which is added to almost all foods in India, China, and Japan, and is also an article of commerce in Europe, used to improve sauces and gravies. However the sauce now available in Germany is said to be made of other ingredients rather than soybeans, namely mushrooms. From England, where this soy sauce is imported from India by the firm Grosse [sic, Crosse] and Blackwell in London, its use is spreading to the continent and is available in Vienna. Kaempfer, who describes the soybean plant so excellently in the classic work on his travels, also gives detailed information about its use as food in Japan, which has since appeared in numerous other writings, such as Oken's Allgemeine Naturgeschichte aller Stande ("General Natural History of All Places") of 1661.

Haberlandt then quotes in their entirety Kaempfer's descriptions of miso and soy sauce (about 200 words each). He also indicates a vague knowledge of tofu.

It is reported that in China a type of food is made from the oilcakes or perhaps from soybeans directly, that superficially resembles a soft cheese or Quark (a European white unfermented cheese); presumably the original mush is subjected to a fermentation process and then mixed with pepper and other spices. A large part of China's population is said to use this staple food.

He goes on to describe the chemical composition and uses of the oil presscake in China.

In Part 4 (p. 106) Haberlandt continues as follows:

It is unnecessary to emphasize the importance of the soybean as a food for man and his animals. Not only is there high nutritional value in the beans and straw, they also have a flavor such that eating them takes no special effort.

A considerable number of taste experiments have been made and it can be stated that nobody's sense of taste has revolted against food uses of soybeans.

Dr. F. Leithner complains that they are not easily cooked softly enough. `I tasted them with oil and vinegar, sort of baked bean style, and as a soup. In oil and vinegar they seemed to have a slightly sweet aftertaste, like sweet peas. Also as soup they reminded me of regular bean soup with a slightly sweet flavor. One of my guests liked them very much.'

Mr. Alfred Erttel, captain of the royal-imperial army in Planta near Meran wrote: `Cooking experiments were highly satisfactory; the soybean is finer and has a better flavor than regular beans.'

Director A. Baumgartner in Grotenhof had them prepared as a salad and as a vegetable. He found them to be very much like regular beans.

Director D.E. Mach commented about the taste experiment he conducted: `In order to come to a valid opinion about the savoriness of the soybean and its value as a food, we tried to have them prepared in various ways. We must admit that they were very tasty cooked whole or as a puree, as well as with oil and vinegar, yes, even finer than peas or lentils. It must be mentioned however that soybeans take a long time to cook soft.'

By adding that no negative opinion about the soybean has come to my attention, I would also like to state: I believe that the seeds of the soybean by themselves are too concentrated a food and they would be best mixed with other foods, which are less concentrated and contain mostly carbohydrates. The Chinese and Japanese have instinctively been led toward that. They add their "miso" or their soy mush to most of their other dishes in a certain ratio without eating soy by itself. Kaempfer describes a way of the Chinese and Japanese of preparing miso that is very complicated; the cooking takes a lot of time and money. So it would seem simplest to use soybeans in the kitchen in a finely ground form. I had soy grits of that kind added to various potato dishes, for example mashed potatoes and rice. I mixed soy grits with wheat grits, cooked with milk or water, and I had soy grits added to mashed potatoes to make a dish resembling Polenta. This might be called Sojenta. My family also experimented with adding soy meal to wheat flour to make bread, with and without the addition of milk, and in all cases we were highly pleased with the results. This opinion about the taste of soy was shared by others, who shared in the tasting.

Note: At this point Haberlandt adds a lengthy footnote from his friend and colleague Professor W. Hecke who followed with great interest the progress of soy culture in Austria and who had conducted taste tests with soy grits. Hecke encouraged the use of soy with potatoes to make a nutritionally balanced, inexpensive, tasty, and easily accepted basic dish. One part of soy flour or grits and two parts fresh potatoes were cooked separately, then mixed into a fairly stiff mush. Salt and fried onions were added as seasonings. The milk and fat, ordinarily added to mashed potato dishes could be omitted. Haberlandt then continues:

If used in this way, the soybean will someday play a major role in the diets of the poor. It will be more than salt for potatoes. With its fat it will replace lard and with its protein it will supply strength. Appropriate mixtures will be easily developed according to the other ingredients used.

As grits or fine meal (flour) it will also move into the palaces of the rich, in whose kitchens from India and China it is already a common item. It will only be a question of finding suitable ways of preparing them. The flavor of half-cooked soy grits resembles that of poppy seeds or almonds, and should be suitable as an addition to the finest foods otherwise made from meals (flour).

The soybean could be of major importance in the provisioning of forts and ships and in supplies for armies. It could justly be used as a better substitute for peas in `Pea Sausage.' It will compete effectively as a coffee substitute with other plant products now used for this purpose. Soy coffee is already produced in South Tirol (Austria) and Istria (a peninsula in northwest Yugoslavia). Mr. Franz Mark of Budapest pointed out the possibility of using soybeans as a chocolate substitute, for which it would undoubtedly serve better than the peanut, which, in Marseille, is mixed with sugar to make an inexpensive chocolate substitute.

Subsequent Influence on Soy. Haberlandt died in 1878 at the young age of 52, shortly after publication of his book. In 1879 his posthumous work General Plant Culture (Der allgemeine landwirthschaftliche Pflanzenbau) was published, edited by W. Hecke. The momentum generated by Haberlandt's work stimulated many subsequent studies in Europe on soybean and soyfoods nutrition and utilization; it was the main reason that this research began in Europe some 20 years before it began in America. We have seen how his work stimulated additional interest in soy at the Society for Acclimatization, which sometimes called the soybean “Haricot Haberlandt.” It left a long and strong legacy of interest in Vienna that was subsequently picked up by Laszlo Berczeller, Wastl, and others.

Haberlandt's untimely death also caused a great loss of momentum in work with soybeans and soyfoods in Europe. Thomas Williams of the USDA, writing in 1897, noted of Haberlandt's work:

Although he succeeded in exciting a great deal of interest in soybean cultivation while making his experiments, and distributed a considerable amount of seed, very little seems to have come of it; for at his death in 1878, the interest flagged, and the soy bean has failed to obtain the place as a staple crop which he prophesied for it.

William Morse (1950) added: "Although attempts to grow soybeans in European countries have extended over many years, in general, the climatic conditions are not well suited to the successful culture of the crop. At present, production is largely confined to parts of European USSR, Austria, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and Rumania."

In 1980 significant European soybean production was found only in the Soviet Union (600,000 tonnes), Rumania (250,000 tonnes), Bulgaria (160,000 tonnes), Yugoslavia (45,000 tonnes), Hungary (38,000 tonnes), Spain (29,000 tonnes), and France (18,000 tonnes). All of these amounts are very small, the Soviet Union being less than 1% of the USA. Much of the soybean acreage in Rumania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Hungary was first planted by the Germans starting in 1935, as they prepared for World War II.

Haberlandt's work had its effect on America, for some (perhaps many) of the earliest varieties grown in the U.S. were progeny of those first grown and distributed in Europe by Haberlandt. One U.S. soybean variety, introduced from Pingyang, Korea, in 1901, was named after Haberlandt. It was widely grown in the 1930s and remained popular in the Virginia-North Carolina region until the mid-1940s.

ANNO: In 2010 the Austrian National Library began a digitalization project in a public private partnership with Google. It digitized more than 1,000 early Austrian newspapers and magazines from 1689 to 1947 and made the results available in a free, online searchable database. This opened an entirely new window on this history of the soybean and soyfoods in the Austro-Hungarian Empire from the mid-1800s until about the mid-1920s. For example, we see how seedsman advertised soybeans and what kinds of questions farmers asked about them. Here we find the results of Prof. Haberlandt's work in full display.

ANNO stands for AustriaN Newspapers Online. Wm. Shurtleff hired Philip Isenberg to translate about 365 articles or ads from these newspapers. Some of these mentioned Prof. F. Haberlandt but many more showed his influence in the 20+ years after he died in 1878.

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