History of Early Named Soybean Varieties in the United States and Canada (1890-2020)

William Shurtleff, Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-948436-30-4

Publication Date: 2020 Nov. 25

Number of References in Bibliography: 2640

Earliest Reference: 1890

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Background: The soybean was introduced to North America in 1765 by Samuel Bowen, a seaman employed by the East India Company, who brought soybeans to Savannah, The Colony of Georgia, from China via London (Hymowitz & Harlan 1983). The second soybean introduction to North America was by Benjamin Franklin. In 1770 he sent seeds from London to the botanist John Bartram in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1851 the soybean was introduced to Illinois (via California), and thence to the rest of the Corn Belt by Benjamin Franklin Edwards (Hymowitz 1987). By the year 1889 there were only a small number of soybean varieties in North America and none of them had names.

In 1890 C.C. Georgeson et al. described four soy beans, two of which he had brought to Kansas from Japan where he had been a professor. Two of the soy beans had Japanese names and two had descriptive / generic English names.

Also in 1890 William P. Brooks described two soja beans which he had brought to Massachusetts from Japan. One soy bean variety had a Japanese name and one had a descriptive / generic English name.

The single biggest strength of this book is the earliest known date that each new, named soybean variety was mentioned in print or old letters. Working over several decades, we have searched our SoyaScan database of more than 110,000 records to find the earliest date mentioned. Moreover, we carefully cite the source of our information on each variety.

Which soybean varieties are mentioned most often in the literature? The following is a list of the number of different documents in this book in which the most popular varieties are mentioned – in descending order of popularity:

Ito San – 512

Manchu – 482

Mammoth Yellow – 404

Haberlandt – 323

Peking – 303

Virginia – 296

Wilson – 295

Biloxi – 293

Hollybrook – 280

Medium Green – 232

Mandarin – 224

Otootan – 212

Black Eyebrow – 196

What is a variety? All domesticated soybeans are members of the same genus and species – Glycine max (Merr.). However, just as there are many types of apples (Granny Smith, McIntosh, Golden Delicious), so there are many varieties (called “cultivars” – cultivated varieties – by professionals) of soybeans – each having slightly different characteristics and germplasm. Only the most promising or widely cultivated varieties are given names. Varieties can be crossed by traditional plant breeders to create new varieties with desired traits. For example, a gene for drought resistance can be backcrossed into a high-yielding variety.

It is very important that each variety is given a name (or number) that is widely agreed upon and “breeds true” – so that its behavior can be determined under various conditions. During the period 1907 to 1923 Piper, Morse and co-workers at state agricultural experiment stations, as they got new varieties from East Asia, tried to figure out names, decide where each grew best (sensitive to latitude) maturity, color and what each was best for. Very exacting and detailed work as you will see from the letters still neatly preserved with excellent indexes and finding aids in the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. They were photographed and sent to us by Matt Roth (contributed 206) and Jacob Jones (contributed 62).

This new edition offers a fascinating look, based on letters from the National Archives, of how new varieties were sent by Piper and Morse from Arlington Farm, Virginia, to high ranking officials at the various state experiment stations west of the Mississippi River – and mostly in southern states initially. In this edition we were able to push back the earliest date that 34 soybean varieties were mentioned. We have boldfaced those dates. For our most detailed description of a variety see Early Brown.

Do most soybeans have yellow seed coats? No. The wild ancestors of the soybean all have black seed coats. Since the late 1970s, almost all the soybeans in the USA have had yellow seed coats. Most Americans, including soybean farmers, have never heard of soybeans that were black, green, brown, white, red, bicolored, or mottled. But have yellow soybeans always predominated in America?

"Previous to the numerous introductions by the United States Department of Agriculture beginning in 1898, not more than eight varieties of soy beans were grown in the United States, namely, Ito San, Mammoth, and Butterball, with yellow seeds; Buckshot and Kingston, with black seeds; Guelph or Medium Green, with green seeds; and Eda and Ogemaw, with brown seeds." Thus of these eight pre-1898 varieties, 3 varieties (37.5%) had yellow seeds, 2 varieties (25%) had black seeds, 2 varieties (25%) had brown seeds, and 1 variety (12.5%) had green seeds (Piper & Morse 1910).

The following list shows the earliest known date that each early, named soybean variety was mentioned in print or old letters, followed (if known) by the color of the seedcoat / seed and hilum (seed scar). Our focus is on those mentioned before 1924. Notice that many early soybean names describe the time of maturity (early, medium early, etc), the color of the seed, and/or the seed size. This table also cites key publications about soybean varieties.

1890 Dec. Yellow Soy Bean – Yellow

1890 Dec. Eda Mame – Yellow (straw), hilum pale

1890 Dec. Kiyusuke Daizu

1891 Yamagata Cha-daidzu – Brown

1892 Green Samarow – Green

1892 April. Medium Early White

1892 April. Medium White

1892 April. Medium Black – Black

1892 April. Medium Green – Green (chromium)

1892 Oct. American Coffee Berry

1893 May. Early White – Yellow (straw), hilum pale

1896. German Coffee Berry

1896 Extra Early Dwarf – Brown (chocolate)

1897 March. Medium Early Black – Black

1897 March. Medium Early Green – Green

1897 Sept. Mammoth – Yellow (straw), hilum tawny

1897 fall – The Section of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction (FSPI) is organized within the USDA in Washington, DC, with David Fairchild in charge. Its mission is to centralize introduction activities. The new Section is within the Seed Division. On 22 March 1898 Congress allocates $20,000 for the collection, purchase, testing, and preparation of foreign seeds, plants, bulbs, shrubs, and trees.

1897. Medium Late Black – Black

1898. – The Section soon began publishing its periodical Foreign Seeds and Plants Imported by the Section of Seed and Plant Introduction – the single best source of information on early soybean introductions to the USA. A permanent sequential S.P.I. number was assigned to each new seed or plant introduced. The earliest Seed and Plant Inventory numbers for "Glycine hispida - Soja bean" are #480 (received March 1898 through Prof. N.E. Hansen, from South Ussurie, Siberia) and #647-56 (received March 4, 1898, through Hon. A.E. Buck, from Tokyo, Japan). Over the next century many new soybean varieties entered the USDA through this route, each bearing an S.P.I. number. All were tested (mostly at USDA plant introduction gardens) for their adaptability to U.S. growing conditions. Only the most promising were given a name.

1899 Dec. Early Dwarf

1899 Dec. Late Mammoth

1900 Black. – Black (shiny)

1900 Yellow

1900 March. Early Yellow – Yellow (straw), hilum pale

1901 March. Asahi

1901 March. Best Green – Yellow (olive), hilum pale

1901 March. Nalrade

1901 March. Tamarat Sukun

1902 Early Green – Green

1902 Feb. Early Black – Black

1902 April. Medium Early Yellow – Yellow (straw)

1902 April. Extra Early Black – Black

1902 April. Ito San – Yellow (straw), hilum pale

1902 April. Bakaziro/Bakajiro – Yellow (straw)

1902 April. Gosha – Yellow (straw)

1902 April. Green Medium – Yellow (greenish or olive), hilum pale

1902 April. Rokugatsu

1902 April. Black Round

1902 April. Yoshioka

1902 Aug. Early Brown – Brown (auburn / reddish brown)

1902 Dec. Mammoth Yellow – Yellow (straw)

1903. Olive Medium – Olive, shading to brown

1903. Wisconsin Black – Black, hilum black

1903 April. Medium Yellow – Yellow (straw)

1904. Hankow – Brown with black banding or mottling, hilum black

1904. Ogemaw – Brown (chocolate). Introduced in 1902.

1904 March. Flat Black

1904 March. Green

1905 May. Southern Prolific – Yellow (straw), hilum light brown

1905. Hollybrook Early – Yellow (straw), hilum tawny to cinnamon brown

1906 June. Hollybrook – Yellow (straw), hilum tawny

1907 March. Very Dwarf Brown – Brown

1907 May. Amherst – Yellow (straw)

1907 May. Baird – Brown

1907 May. Brownie – Brown

1907 May. Buckshot – Black

1907 May. Butterball – Yellow

1907 May. Ebony – Black

1907 May. Eda – Brown

1907 May. Flat King – Black

1907 May. Guelph – Green (chromium)

1907 May. Haberlandt – Yellow (straw), hilum dusty brown. This variety existed by May 1905.

1907 May. Kingston – Black

1907 May. Large Black – Black

1907 May. Manhattan – Yellow (straw)

1907 May. Meyer – Black and Brown in concentric bands or mottling

1907 May. Nuttall – Black

1907 May. Riceland – Black

1907 May. Samarow – Green

1907 May. Tokyo / Tokio – Yellow (olive), hilum pale

1907 May. Yosho – Yellow (olive)

1907 May 27 – “Soy Bean Varieties,” by Carleton R. Ball is published in USDA Bureau of Plant Industry, Bulletin No. 98. 30 p. This publication started a new system for naming soybeans, giving them common names such as Buckshot, Ogemaw, and Ito San. It first classified and then described all of the 23 known soybeans that had a name, first by color (there were 6 black and 6 yellow varieties), within color by seed size, and within seed size by maturity. This is the earliest document seen which tries to standardize early soybean varietal names / nomenclature to prevent confusion. It also gives a list of 29 synonyms, and of 86 S.P. I. numbers. Four full-page photos show the pods (side view) and seeds (side and front views) of (typically) five soybean varieties.

1907 Dec. Acme – Yellow (straw)

1908 March. Cloud – Black

1908. Brown – Brown

1908 March. Medium Brown – Brown

1908 March. Barchet – Brown (olive)

1908 April. Tashing – Green (chromium)

1908 April. Edward – Yellow (straw)

1908 July. Shanghai – Black

1909 March. Sherwood – Yellow (straw)

1909 March. Wilson – Black (jet), hilum black

1909 March. Jet – Black

1909 March. Duggar – Brown (olive)

1909 March. Austin – Yellow (olive)

1909 April. Morse – Yellow (olive), hilum tawny to brown

1909 April. Brooks – Yellow (straw)

1909 April. Brindle – Brown and black

1909 April. Chestnut – Brown (russet)

1909 April. Habaro – Yellow (straw), hilum dusky brown

1909 April. Hongkong – Black

1909 April. Hope – Yellow (olive)

1909 April. Merko – Brown (olive)

1909 April. Pingsu – Black

1909 April. Shingto (Yellow (olive)

1909 April. Taha

1909 May. Swan – Yellow (straw)

1909 May. Trenton – Brown

1909 Oct. 7 – “Soy Beans,” by Piper & Nielsen is published as Farmers’ Bulletin (USDA) No. 372. 26 p. It describes 12 soy bean varieties, and states that USDA has tested nearly 200 soy bean varieties during the past three years.

1910 March. Peking / Pekin – Black

1910 April. Hansen – Brown

1910 April. Chernie – Black

1910 April. Farnham – Yellow (straw)

1910 Dec. Arlington – Black

1910 Dec. Auburn – Black, hilum pale

1910 Dec. Columbia – Green (chromium)

1910 Dec. Elton – Yellow (straw), hilum pale

1910 Dec. Fairchild – Black

1910 Dec. Flava – Yellow (straw)

1910 Dec. Lowrie – Yellow (olive)

1910 Dec. Morgan – Yellow (olive)

1910 Dec. Natsu – Yellow (straw)

1910 Dec. Nemo – Yellow (olive)

1910 Dec. Nielson – Yellow (olive)

1910 Dec. Nigra – Black

1910 Dec. Okute or O’Kute – Yellow (olive)

1910 Dec. Sedo – Brown (deep)

1910 Dec. Stuart – Yellow (olive)

1910 Dec. Vireo – Yellow (olive)

1910 Dec. 21 – “The Soy Bean: History, Varieties, and Field Studies,” by Piper & Morse is published in USDA Bureau of Plant Industry, Bulletin No. 197. 84 p. This is the most important document ever published on early soybean varieties in the USA.

1910. Mongol – Yellow to olive green

1910. Wing’s Mikado

1910. Wing’s Mongol

1910. Wing’s Sable

1911 Jan. Edna – Black

1911. Wing’s Extra Select Sable – Black

1912 Feb. Sooty – Black (rusty), hilum black.

1912 Feb. Virginia – Brown (olive)

1912 May. Black Eyebrow – Black, hilum brown

1913. Early Dwarf Green – Green

1913. March. Mikado – Yellow (straw), hilum cinnamon brown

1913. Oct. Kentucky

1914. O.A.C. 81

1914. Quebec No. 537

1914. Quebec No. 92 – Yellow, hilum dark

1914. March. Perley’s Mongol

1914. March. Otootan – Black, hilum black

1914 May. Chiquita – Yellow (straw), hilum cinnamon brown

1914 Dec. Ohio 9035

1914 Dec. Tarheel – Black, hilum black

1914 Dec. Claud

1914. Medium Early Brown - Brown

1914? Royal – Black.

1915 Jan. Biloxi – Brown (chocolate)

1915 Jan. Manchu – Yellow (straw), hilum black

1915 June. Tarheel Black – Black, hilum black

1915. Wing’s Royal – Black

1916 Jan. Wing’s Pedigreed Sable – Black

1916 April. Ohio 9001 – Yellow

1916 April. Manchuria

1916 April. Ohio 9016 – Yellow

1916 Sept. White Eyebrow – Brown (olive)

1916 Dec. Lexington – Yellow (olive), hilum tawny

1917 Jan. 1 – W.J. Morse writes in a letter: “Dear Prof. Burleson [at Auburn, Alabama]: During the winter of 1914 this office received about 300 introductions of soy beans from China [many from Frank N. Meyer], Manchuria, Japan and Korea. Variety tests conducted with these introductions showed that most of them were new sorts and very few identical with each other or with previous introductions. These varieties have now been tested out at Arlington Farm for three years and many of them show very great promise either as hay or seed varieties in comparison with those varieties now generally grown in this country.”

1917 Jan. Wilson-Five – Black

1917 March. Indiana Hollybrook – Yellow (straw), hilum tawny

1917 April. A.K. – Yellow (straw), hilum pale

1918. Black Ebony – Black

1918 July. Hahto – Yellow (olive), hilum black

1918 July. Yokoten – Yellow (straw), hilum cinnamon brown

1918 July. – “The Soy Bean: Its Culture and Uses,” by W.J. Morse is published in Farmers’ Bulletin (USDA) No. 973. 32 p. It describes 22 varieties of soybeans.

1919 Jan. Hoosier

1919 Jan. Mandarin – Yellow (straw), hilum pale

1919 Jan. O.A.C. 111 – Yellow (straw), hilum pale

1919 Jan. Easycook or Easy Cook – Yellow (straw), hilum cinnamon brown

1919 June. Mammoth Brown – Brown (russet)

1920 March. Minnesota 166 and 167

1920 June. Kentucky A

1920 July. Patuxent – Yellow

1921 March. Saskatoon – Yellow

1921 April. Askarben – Yellow (straw), hilum pale

1921 April. Soysota

1921 April. Minsoy – Yellow (straw), hilum cinnamon brown

1921 May. Dunfield – Yellow (straw), hilum light brown

1921 May. Pinpu

1921 May. Wea – Yellow (straw), hilum dark olive

1922 Nov. O.A.C. 211 – Yellow

1922 Dec. Midwest – Yellow (straw), hilum tawny to cinnamon brown

1923 Feb.The Soybean, by Piper & Morse is published. This is the first comprehensive book about the soybean written in English, and the most important book on soybeans and soyfoods written up to this time. It describes 43 soybean varieties and lists 7 synonyms.

1923 March. Hamilton – Brown or auburn (reddish brown)

1923 March. Hurrelbrink

1927 April. – Soy Beans: Culture and Varieties, by W.J. Morse is published as Farmer’ Bulletin (USDA) No. 1520. 34 p. It describes 59 soybean varieties and lists 44 synonyms.

1929 Sept. Laredo – Black

1935 Aug. Rokusun (large seeded) – Yellow (straw), hilum brown

1935 Aug. – “Green vegetable Soybeans, by W.J. Morse, is published in Proceedings of the American Soybean Association (p. 44-45). This is the earliest document seen that mentions large-seeded, vegetable-type soybeans in the USA.

1936 March. Bansei (large seeded) – Yellow (straw), hilum pale / colorless to light

1936 March. Chusei (large seeded) – Yellow (straw), hilum yellow

1936 April. Chame (large seeded) – Brown, hilum brown

1936 April. Fuji (large seeded) – Green, hilum black

1936 April. Goku (large seeded) – Yellow (straw), hilum yellow

1936 April. Hakote (large seeded) – Yellow (olive), hilum black

1936 April. Higan (large seeded) – Yellow (straw), hilum brown

1936 April. Hiro (large seeded) – Black

1936 April. Hokkaido (large seeded) – Yellow, hilum, colorless

1936 April. Jogun (large seeded) – Yellow (straw), hilum pale / colorless

1936 April. Kanro (large seeded) – Yellow (straw), hilum pale to brown

1936 April. Kura (large seeded) – Black plus olive yellow, hilum black

1936 April. Nanda (large seeded) – Yellow (straw), hilum pale

1936 April. Osaya (large seeded) – Yellow (straw), hilum yellow

1936 April. Sato (large seeded) – Black, hilum black

1936 April. Shiro (large seeded) – Yellow (olive), hilum brown or black

1936 April. Sousei (large seeded) – Yellow (olive), hilum brown

1936 April. Suru (large seeded) – Yellow (straw)

1936 April. Toku (large seeded) – Yellow (straw), hilum brown

1936 April. Waseda (large seeded) – Yellow (straw), hilum pale to brown

1936 April. – “Soybean introductions named in January 1936,” W.J. Morse issued as a 2-page leaflet by USDA Bureau of Plant Industry, Division of Forage Crops and Diseases. The named introductions include 20 new large-seeded vegetable-type soybeans. Dorsett and Morse obtained most of these in Japan during their trip to Asia in 1929-1931.

1937. Agate (large seeded) – Yellow (straw) and brown, hilum brown

1937 June. Giant Green (large seeded) – Green, hilum black

1937 June. Funk Delicious / Funk’s Delicious (large seeded) – Yellow (straw), hilum pale

1938 May. Illington (large seeded)

1938 May. Imperial (large seeded) – Yellow (straw), hilum pale

1938 May. Tortoise Egg (large seeded)

1938 May. Willomi (large seeded) – Yellow (straw), hilum pale-brown

1938 May. – “A study of Soybeans with Reference to their Use as Food,” by Woodruff and Klass is published as Illinois Agricultural Experiment Station, Bulletin No. 443 (p. 421-67). In it they list 17 soybean varieties, six of which showed special merit for table use. Four are new large-seeded vegetable-type soybeans.

1938 Sept. Sioux (large seeded) – Yellow (olive), hilum black

1938 Sept. Aoda (large seeded) – Green, hilum light brown

1939 March. Emperor (large seeded) – Yellow (straw), hilum light brown

1939 March. – “Eighteen varieties of Edible Soybeans: Their Adaptability, Acceptability and Characteristics,” by Lloyd and Burlison is published as Illinois Agricultural Experiment Station, Bulletin No. 453 (p. 385-349). This is the most complete and interesting report on this subject published up to this time.

1941 July. Etum or Eatum (large seeded) – Yellow (straw), hilum light brown

1941 July. Green and Black (large seeded) – Green and/or black

1941 July. Jackson (large seeded) – Green, with black hilum and green cotyledons

1941 July. Jefferson (large seeded)

1941 July. Kanum (large seeded) – Yellow (straw), hilum light brown

1941 July. Sac (large seeded) – Yellow (olive), hilum black

1941 July. Seminole (large seeded) – Yellow (straw), hilum brown

1941 July. Tastee (large seeded) – Yellow (olive), hilum black

1941 July. Wolverine (large seeded) – Yellow (straw), hilum pale to light brown

1941 July. Yellow Marvel (large seeded) – Yellow

1941 July. – “Shanghaied… a Super Food,” by W.J. Morse is published in Soybean Digest (p. 4-5, 10). The “super food” is green vegetable soybeans from large-seeded edible-type soybeans. A table shows 42 “edible varieties classified according to maturity.” Ten of these are first mentioned here.

1942 April. Cherokee (large seeded) – Green, hilum brown

1943 Nov. Mendota (large seeded) – Yellow (straw), hilum light brown to brown

1945 Jan. Sanga (large seeded)

1945 June. Delsoy (large seeded) – Yellow (straw), hilum dark brown

1948 May. – “Soybean Varietal Names Used to Date,” by W.J. Morse is published as Appendix to the mimeographed report of the Fourth Work Planning Conference of the North Central States Collaborators of the U.S. Regional Soybean Laboratory, Urbana, Illinois. RSLM 148 (9 p.). A treasure trove of soybean variety names, P.I. numbers, and synonyms

1948 Aug. – “Soybean Varieties: Descriptions, Synonyms and Names of Obsolete or Old and Seldom Grown Varieties,” by USDA Production and Marketing Administration [Grain Branch] is published as a 25-page booklet. It contains: Description of varieties (129 varieties). Synonyms of variety names (120 synonyms). Obsolete or old or seldom grown varieties (149 varieties).

1949. – The Soybean Germplasm Collection is established in two locations: Urbana, Illinois and Stoneville, Mississippi. The objective is “to collect and maintain all significantly different soybean strains from throughout the world…” "Prior to 1949 no consistent attempt was made to preserve soybean germplasm, and many introductions and old domestic varieties were discarded.” “A total of 1,524 PI strains or domestic varieties derived from PI strains were recovered and are now in the collection. This compares with 7,867 introductions made from 1898 to 1944." The collection is divided into six parts, including wild soybeans and perennial Glycine species (Bernard et al. 1987. p. 1).

1953 June. Harosoy

1956 April. Kanrich (large seeded) – Yellow, hilum yellow

1956 April. Kim (large seeded) – Green with black hilum

1967 Feb. Disoy (large seeded) – Yellow, hilum yellow

1967 Feb. Magna (large seeded) – Yellow

1967 Feb. Prize (large seeded) – Yellow, hilum pale/clear

1967 May. Verde (large seeded) – Green, hilum light buff, with green cotyledons

1969 May. Provar (high protein) – Yellow (dull), hilum brown and large

1969 July. Protana (high protein) – Yellow (shiny), with imperfect black hilum

1970 Feb. Kahala (large seeded)

1970 Feb. Kaikoo (large seeded)

1970 Feb. Kailua (large seeded)

1970 Feb. Mokapu Summer (large seeded)

1975 July. Emerald (large seeded) – Green (green cotyledons), hilum black

1976 April. Grande (large seeded) – Yellow (light with dull luster), hilum light tan

1977. Maple Arrow – Yellow

1978 Oct. Vinton (large seeded) – Yellow (dull), hilum yellow

1981 Aug. Vinton 81 (large seeded) – Yellow (dull), hilum yellow

1984 Dec. – “Dorsett-Morse soybean collection trip to East Asia: 50 year retrospective,” by Theodore Hymowitz is published in Economic Botany (p. 378-88). The two plant explorers collected 4,451 soybean accessions and sent them to the USA to be given SPI numbers. Until about 1950 the collection was used primarily for the development of vegetable type soybean cultivars. During this period many of the accessions were lost. As of 1984 only 945 of the original 4,451 accessions are available in the United States soybean germplasm collection. The entire trip cost about $25,000 – an investment that has repaid itself many times over.

1986 Jan. Merrimax (large seeded) – Yellow (glossy), hilum buff

1988 Oct. – “Origins and Pedigrees of Public Soybean Varieties in the United States and Canada, by Richard L. Bernard et al. is published as USDA Technical Bulletin No. 1746. 68 p. Excellent – maybe the single best work on this subject. Tables 3 and 4 (p. 4-30) correspond to the information in this book, however the “Year named or released” is not nearly as accurate as the dates given the present book.

1989 Nov. Harovinton (large seeded) – Yellow (dull), hilum yellow

1991 March. Proto (high protein) – Yellow (dull), hilum buff

2000 May. Gardensoy (large seeded) – Green

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