History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in Iowa (1854-2021)

Wiliam Shurtleff; Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-948436-46-5

Publication Date: 2021 Aug. 11

Number of References in Bibliography: 3989

Earliest Reference: 1854

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Brief Chronology/Timeline of Soybeans and Soyfoods in Iowa

1852 May – The soybean (called The Japan Bean) is first cultivated in Iowa by J.R. Jackson of Davenport, Iowa (Jackson 1854; Hymowitz 1987).

1854 March – The soybean is first mentioned in connection with Iowa by J.R. Jackson in the Prairie Farmer.

1856 – Abram Weaver, of Bloomfield, Davis Co., Iowa, is the 2nd person to describe growing soybeans in Iowa. However he grew green vegetable soybeans, which he received from the Patent Office in 1855.

Note: This is the earliest document seen concerning green vegetable soybeans grown in Iowa.

1858 March 22 – The Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm (now Iowa State University) is officially established by the legislature of the State of Iowa.

1859 – The Board of Trustees is organized in January and it selected Story County as the site of the new Agricultural College on June 21. A picnic on the site is held on July 4 to commemorate the occasion. Suel Foster is elected first president of the Board of Trustees, a position he holds until 1865. An early and persistent champion of industrial education he helped to draft the original bill which was introduced in the Sixth General Assembly in 1856. Two years later this bill in revised form became the organic act of the Iowa State Agricultural College and Model Farm. The original college farm of 648 acres is purchased from five different owners at a total cost of $5,379. Story and Boone counties pledge private subscriptions, bonds, and land gifts valued at $21,355.

1861 – The Farm House and accompanying Cattle Barn are completed by local builders. The first occupant of the Farm House is W.H. Fitzpatrick, who rents the farm in 1861. The Farm House is the home of the superintendent of the Model Farm and in later years, the deans of Agriculture, such as Seaman Knapp and "Tama Jim" Wilson. In 1966, the house is placed on the National Register of Historic Places and currently serves as a campus museum showcasing the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

1868 – The first unit of the Main Building (Old Main), predecessor of Beardshear Hall, is completed at a cost of $10,570. The building contains a reception room, library, lecture hall, a specimen museum, professors' and recitation room, students' rooms, a chapel, kitchen, laundry, and dining room as well as rooms for the housekeeper and maids.

1869 – The first class is comprised of 173 students, 136 men and 37 women. They enrolled from 55 Iowa counties.

1870 – Academic life: President Welch and I.P. Robert, professor of agriculture, hold 3-day farmers' institutes at Cedar Falls, Council Bluffs, Washington, and Muscatine. These are the earliest institutes held off-campus by a land grant institution, and were the forerunners of 20th century extension.

Campus: The first part of the Chemical Laboratory is built at a cost of $5,003. The North Farm of 140 acres is purchased for $3,500 (where the former Pammel Court and the current Veenker Golf Course are now located). President Welch also requests legislative funding for a 2-wing expansion of Old Main.

Student life: Two additional literary societies are formed, The Bachelors' Debating (which allowed only male members) and the Crescents, which had thirteen original charter members. This original thirteen includes Edgar Stanton (professor and first to receive an I.A.C. diploma), Millikan Stalker (professor of Veterinary Medicine), and LaVerne Noyes (who donates the funding for Lake LaVerne).

The rules of the College are fairly strict, and included the following examples:

1. The recitation hours of the day and hours of the evening from 7:00 p.m. till 10:00 p.m. (except Saturday and Sunday) are set apart as study hours.

2. During study hours all students except such as are detailed for work, shall study quietly in their rooms.

4. Lights shall be extinguished at 10:00 p.m.

7. Loud talking, whistling, scuffling, gathering in hall or stair cases, and boisterous and noisy conduct, are at all times forbidden.

12. Students shall be detailed for labor by the President, and shall work as directed an average of two hours and one half per day for five days in the week. Young women worked in the dining or laundry services; young men on the farm. Equal wages for both men and women were to be paid, as directed by President Welch.

14. Students may not visit the dining-room, laundry, kitchen, bakery, store-room, cellar, ice-house, workshop, or barns, nor walk through the meadows, lawns, or growing crops, without special permission.

15. The use of intoxicating liquors is prohibited to members of the College.

1888 March – The Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment is established as a result of the Hatch Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1887. The legislation gave federal funds to state land-grand colleges. In March 1888, the Iowa General Assembly approved the terms of the Hatch Act .

1894 – “Soiling Crops, 1894,” by James Wilson, is published as Iowa Agricultural Experiment Station, Bulletin No. 27 (20 p.). It states: “During the summer of 1894 we grew Soja beans, or Japan beans, under experimental conditions for feeding to dairy cows, so as to get indications of their value as an addition to our field crops and their effect on the quantity and quality of milk, and on the flavor of butter. This bean comes to blossoming – which is the best feeding stage for milk-making – in August, when few plants now known to our cropping system are in succulent condition. It seems to be entirely at home in a dry climate. It is rich in protein, palatable when cows become used to it, gives a fine flavor to butter, increases the flow of milk when substituted for green sweet corn, and increases the fat per cent over corn, as our tables will show.

“The seed was sent to the college by Prof. Georgeson, of Manhattan, Kansas, who brought several varieties of it from Japan.”

1894 – Charles F. Curtis, assistant director of the agricultural experiment station and later dean emeritus of agriculture at Iowa State College, during the worst drought on memory in Iowa, urged farmers to plant soybeans and alfalfa.

“Professor stuff!” they snorted. Soybeans and alfalfa wouldn't grow in Iowa and even a professor ought to know it, they said. But ultimately his early views prevailed and were influential in Iowa becoming a major soybean producing state (Soybean Digest, Sept. 1947, p. 60).

1896 – “Entomological Work for 1895: The Four-Spotted Pea Weevil (Bruchus quadri-maculatus, Fabr.),” by H. Osborn and C.W. Mally is published as Iowa Agricultural Experiment Station, Bulletin No. 32 (9 p.). It states: Experiments with carbon bisulfide fumigation were conducted to determine its effect on the germination of various seeds infested by these insects. Fifty seeds each of Keyusunke [Kiyusuke] soy bean and yellow soy bean [Yellow Soy Bean] were fumigated and planted. These were compared with an unfumigated check.

1898 – Charles D. Reed, meteorologist with the United States Weather Bureau at Des Moines, had soybean plantings under observation when he was in charge of the field experiments at the Iowa Station as early as 1898 (Hughes 1942, p. 383).

1915 about – Bert Strayer of Black Hawk County, Iowa, begins to grow soybeans (Burger 1927, p. 5). Other early soybean growers in Iowa are William McArthur, John Sand, and J.W. Horlacher (Riegel 1944).

1916 Aug. – William J. Morse, the USDA’s specialist on soybeans, first visits Iowa. He writes: “The soybeans at Ames, Iowa, and St. Paul [Minnesota] seem very promising. Although but few are grown in either state, the stations have experimented with them in different ways and not done much extension work. However they are now starting to do extension work for they feel this crop has a chance.

1920 Feb. 2 – Edwin T. Meredith (Democrat) of Iowa becomes U.S. Secretary of Agriculture under President Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921).

1920 March – “Soy Beans in Iowa,” by H.D. Hughes and F.S. Wilkins is published as Iowa Agricultural Experiment Station, Circular No. 64 (4 pages). The introduction begins: “The Iowa Agricultural Experiment Station has grown a number of different varieties of soy beans each year since 1910. It finds the crop very dependable, the better varieties producing yields of from 15 to 25 bushels of seed, or 2½ to 3½ tons of hay per acre in most seasons.” H.D. Hughes is now, and for many years to come, Iowa’s soybean expert.

1921 Sept. 5 – William J. Morse, USDA, visits Ames, Iowa. He writes to Prof. C.V. Piper, his boss: “At Ames the Manchu is the best with the Black Eyebrow a close second. The station here is raising a very large amount of seed of these two varieties. The value of seed alone of these two varieties would carry our Forage Crop Office for a few years. It is certainly surprising how these varieties have spread.”

1922 Feb. – “Soybeans as a Home-Grown Supplement for Dairy Cows,” by A.C. McCandlish, E. Weaver and L.A. Lunde is published as Iowa Agricultural Experiment Station, Bulletin No. 204 (8 pages).

1922 Sept. 9-11 – William J. Morse visits the Midwest, including Ames, Iowa. “He told in his talk of the thousands of acres that were being devoted to this crop in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana… A large part of this development can be credited to Mr. Morse (Ohio Farmer, Oct, 7, p. 354).

1922 – “It was not until 1922 that the soybean crop of the state was considered sufficiently important to justify the gathering of statistics on acreage. The acreage of beans grown alone in that year was reported to be 4,686; 3 years later this had jumped to 20,000…” (Hughes 1942, p. 386).

1923 March – “Soybeans,” by H.D. Hughes and F.S. Wilkins is published as Iowa Agricultural Experiment Station, Circular No. 84 (15 pages).

1923 March – In The Soybean, by Piper & Morse, table 1 (p. 3) gives acreage, production and yield of soybean seeds in the top 14 states. Iowa is not yet one of those states. Iowa is mentioned only on pages 89 and 137 of the book.

1925 May – Soybeans for Iowa,” by H.D. Hughes and F.S. Wilkins is published as Iowa Agricultural Experiment Station, Bulletin No. 228 (61 pages). It begins with summary of 25 key points, then adds: “Interest in the crop was not evident thruout the state until about 1916, but since has been keen, and the acreage in many counties has increased remarkably.”

“Soybeans have more uses in Iowa than any other legume. They may be grown alone or in combination with corn.” They are well adapted to the climate and soils of this state. 157 different varieties have been grown in the tests at Ames. Manchu is recommended for seed production. Peking is recommended for hay and silage purposes.

1926 May – “Soybean Hay for Fattening Lambs,” by John M. Evvard et al. is published as Iowa Agricultural Experiment Station, Bulletin No. 224 (31 pages). This study is in two parts: the first giving an historical summary of the previous work done in soybean hay feeding, and the second giving an account of the authors' experiments in feeding soybean hay to fattening lambs.

1927 Sept. – George M. Strayer of Hudson, Iowa, starts to get involved with soybeans as he attends his first meeting of the American Soybean Association at the University of Illinois. "One thing that sticks indelibly in my mind is a statement made by W.K. Kellogg, of Kellogg's cereals, Battle Creek, Michigan. He said: 'Some day people in the U.S. will realize how foolish it is to feed one hundred pounds of soybeans to livestock and get back a very small poundage of meat products which have a protein inferior to the protein fed to the livestock." (Strayer 1980. p. 50-53).

By 1930 his father, Bert, had become a director of the ASA

1928 March – Soybeans are first processed in Iowa by the Iowa Milling Co., 412 N. Sixth St., Cedar Rapids, Iowa (McCoy’s City Directory. 1922, p. 124, 495, 618; 1928, p. 430, 532. Soybean Digest. 1944. Sept. p. 18-19. “Some Early Processors: “First soybeans processed west of the Mississippi River were at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, by Iowa Milling Co., it is claimed. Joe Sinaiko and Max Albert, partners in the venture, installed the equipment consisting of two expellers, in the fall of 1927 and operations began the next spring.”)

Note: “The first soybean processing plant to be established in Iowa was the Standard Soybean Mills at Centerville, Iowa, in 1929” (Hughes 1942, p. 388).

1928 June – “Soybean Inoculation Studies,” by L.W. Erdman and F.S. Wilkins is published as Iowa Agricultural Experiment Station, Research Bulletin No. 114 (54 pages). Note: This very comprehensive Research Bulletin is generally recognized as an outstanding contribution. Many facts regarding inoculation are brought to light which previously had not been known. This publication had a major influence on inoculation and soybean production.

1934 April – “Soybeans in Iowa Farming,” by Albert Mighell, H.D. Hughes and F.S. Wilkins is published as Iowa Agricultural Experiment Station, Bulletin No. 309 (62 p.). The summary states:

“1. The Iowa soybean acreage, exclusive of that interplanted with corn, has expanded from 471 acres in 1919 to 192,000 acres in 1933. The acreage planted with corn reached a peak in 1923 and since has dropped to about one-fifth of the former total.

“2. Thirty-five percent of the crop is harvested as seed, while 65 percent is cut for hay. The percentage harvested for seed has been declining.

“3. It is estimated that in 1931 68 percent of the crop acreage was used to supply feed for cattle, 8 percent for hogs and 1 percent for horses, 5 percent to supply operators' own seed, and 18 percent was sold.”

The soybean varieties Manchu, Illini, Dunfield, Mukden, and Black Eyebrow constitute approximately 95% of the crop in the state. These varieties were recommended as a result of variety comparisons at the Station.

1936 April 3 – F.S. Wilkins, in charge of soybean investigations at Iowa State University, dies. He is succeeded by Dr. Martin Weiss in 1938 (Hughes 1942, p. 386).

1938 – The worst drought in memory hits Iowa.

1940 June – “Testing Soybean Selections Suitable for Use as Green Vegetables for Human Consumption,” by C.P. Wilsie et al. published in Iowa Agricultural Experiment Station, Annual Report (For the year ending June 30, 1940; p. 72-73).

1940 Sept. – George M. Strayer has become a director of the ASA, attends the annual meeting at Dearborn, Michigan, and is on the resolutions committee. ASA’s board of directors decides the association needs a publication. George takes the job as editor of Soybean Digest. He is the ASA’s first paid employee.

1940 Nov. – Soybean Digest begins publication in Hudson, Iowa – the home of George M. Strayer. It is the official publication of the American Soybean Association (ASA) and designed for soybean growers. George is the editor; he is also the secretary and treasurer of the ASA.

1941 Oct. – “A Call for Community Plants,” by L.K. Arnold is published in Soybean Digest. He advocates using solvent extraction and gives 4 reasons for choosing trichloroethylene as a solvent for small plants.

1941 Dec. 7 – The United States enters World War II. The Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, led President Franklin Roosevelt to declare war on Japan. U.S. Supplies of imported vegetable oils are suddenly cut off. The soybean leaps into the limelight as the U.S. government offers to pay soybean farmers to greatly increase production. This is a boon for Soybean Digest, which soon becomes the best periodical source of information on soybeans ever published.

1942 Jan. – “Vegetable Soybeans,” by Martin G. Weiss et al. published as Iowa Agricultural Experiment Station, Bulletin No. P39. (15 p. New Series). It states: “The vegetable soybean is a new crop for the Iowa farm garden and the Iowa canner. It has been found distinctly superior to the field soybean as a whole-bean food for human consumption. Used as a green vegetable, when harvested in the green-bean stage, or baked as mature dry beans, the high nutritive value of the soybean makes it especially valuable in the human diet.

“Eighty-nine vegetable varieties and four field varieties of soybeans were tested for desirability as a human food… Three vegetable varieties of different maturities were selected as most desirable under Iowa conditions: Sac, a very early variety; Kanro, a mid-season variety; and Jogun, a late variety. When planted at the same time these three varieties provide a succession of green vegetable beans throughout the late summer.”

1942 Feb. – “Plastics from Agricultural Materials,” by O.R. Sweeney and L.K. Arnold is published as Iowa Engineering Experiment Station, Bulletin No. 154 (52 pages).

1942 – “Soybeans through Thirty Years at the Iowa Station,” by H.D. Hughes is published in the Iowa Yearbook of Agriculture (43rd annual; pages 383-86). Iowa now has 10 mills that crush soybeans. “The smallest has an estimated annual capacity of 200,000 bushels and the largest approximately 2½ million.”

Page 386+: “The soybean program at the Iowa Station was greatly strengthened and expanded under the leadership of Dr. Martin Weiss, beginning in 1938, at which time 17 variety crosses were made, with a considerable number of very promising lines resulting.

“It was not until 1922 that the soybean crop of the state was considered sufficiently important to justify the gathering of statistics on acreage. The acreage of beans grown alone in that year was reported to be 4,686; 3 years later this had jumped to 20,000 and in another 3 years to 44,000. Over 40,000 acres of these beans were grown with corn in 1922, and 150,000 the next year. This practice has almost wholly disappeared.

“The greatest increase in soybean acreage in any single year was from 1933 to 1934 – from 210,000 to 716,000. This marked increase within a 12-month period is accounted for by the severe drouth [drought], heat and grasshopper damage of 1934, when a large acreage of beans went in as an emergency crop on land where other crops had failed. With the general failure of grass and clover seedings made in 1934 there was a still further increase in bean acreage in 1935 – from 716,000 to 1,041,000. It is estimated that 75 to 85 percent of the crop was harvested as hay in these 2 years. The popularity of soybeans for hay is indicated by the fact that from 50 to 65 percent of the crop had normally been harvested for hay through a period of years. It has been only in very recent years, with an increased demand for processing beans for oil production, that there has been any material change from this trend.”

1956 June – The Soybean Council of America, Inc. is formed in Iowa. Howard L. Roach of Plainfield, Iowa is the first president. A joint venture of the American Soybean Association (ASA) and the National Soybean Processors Association (NSPA), its goal is to develop new markets for U.S. soybeans worldwide.

1959 – Iowa State College is officially renamed Iowa State University of Science and Technology.

1960 Nov. – “Soybean Research at Iowa State,” by C.R. Weber, is published in Soybean Digest. Iowa is now a leader in soybean research in a wide range of areas.

1964 Dec. 16 – The Iowa Soybean Association is formed at Ames, Iowa, at a meeting attended by 200 persons. C. Joseph Coleman of Clare, Iowa, was selected president. Iowa is the fifth state soybean association (Muhm 1964. Dec. 17, p. 17).

1970 Dec. – Solnuts, dry-roasted soynuts, start to be made at a state-of-the art plant in Hudson, Iowa.

1971 – The soybean checkoff program is a major activity of the Iowa Soybean Association. Iowa soybean farmers deduct (“checkoff”) 1 cent per bushel at the first point of sale. Checkoff money is used to fund soybean research, much of which is conducted at Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture (West Lyon Herald (Inwood, Iowa). 1988 March 17).

1974 April – The Soybean Genetics Newsletter starts to be published. The editor is Reid Palmer, followed by Walt Fehr at Iowa State Univ.

1980 – North Carolina was the first state in America to grow soybeans commercially on a large scale, with Tennessee and Virginia far behind. From 1917 to 1920, North Carolina grew about 75% of all U.S. soybeans. Not until 1924 did Illinois pass North Carolina to take the lead, which it held dramatically until about 1980, when it was passed briefly by Iowa, with Indiana in 3rd place. Missouri, Minnesota, and Ohio have continued to be leading states.

In 1980 the leading states in soybean production were: Iowa 318.4 million bushels. Illinois 309.8 million bushels. Indiana 157.7 million bushels. Minnesota 149.9 million bushels (1982 Soya Bluebook, p. 173).

1980 – American Pride Whole Foods in Fairfield, Iowa, is the first company to make tofu in Iowa.

1983 Feb. – The National Soy Ink Center is established by the American Soybean Association with Jo Patterson as the coordinator. She is based at the Iowa Soybean Promotion Board.

1984 March 7 – The Ag Processing Inc. a cooperative (AGP) is created out of the merger of several other agricultural cooperatives. It has facilities located in Sergeant Bluff, Fort Dodge, Eagle Grove, and Sheldon, Iowa.

1987 – Center for Crops Utilization Research established at Iowa State University.

1989 – The Iowa Soybean Review starts to be published by the Iowa Soybean Association.

1990 Nov. – Soybean Digest celebrates its 50th anniversary. It is now published in St. Louis, Missouri, which is also home of the American Soybean Association.

1995 Aug. – Paul Lang starts making soy products at Natural Products Inc. in Grinnell, Iowa.

1995 Sept. – Candleworks launches the world first candle made with 100% vegetable wax – soybean oil that is hardened via hydrogenation. The founder is Michael Richards of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

1996 – Ag Processing Inc a Cooperative (AGP) starts to make methyl esters from crude soybean oil at Sergeant Bluff, Iowa. The product’s popular name is soy biodiesel.

1999 Jan. – Midwest Harvest Corp starts making tofu in Grinnell, Iowa, on a farm owned by Tom Lacina. The company is a joint venture with Wildwood Natural Foods of California.

2000 Sept. – The Soyfoods Council, Inc. is established by the Iowa Soybean Association. Linda Funk is the managing director.

2000 – In the year 2000 the leading states in soybean production are: Illinois 459.8 million bushels. Iowa 459.2 million bushels. Indiana 258.9 million bushels. Minnesota 293.2 million bushels. Ohio 186.4 million bushels. Missouri 175.0 million bushels.

2001 – Genetic ID is established in Fairfield, Iowa, to test whether commodities (such as soybeans) contain any genetically altered individuals.

2006 Feb. – The National Center for Soybean Biotechnology (NCSB) takes over responsibility for the Soybean Genetics Newsletter.

2010 Jan. – The Iowa Soybean Association moves to its new home at Ankeny, Iowa – from Urbandale, Iowa – about 13 miles to the northeast.

Click here to download the full text to open and read book History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in Iowa (1854-2021)