Exploring The Nutritional Value And Health Benefits of Soybeans

Soybean is an annual oilseed crop of the family Leguminosae and mainly grown for edible seeds. It is the most economical source of protein (40%) for human food and animal feed.

Exploring The Nutritional Value And Health Benefits of Soybeans

Soybean is an annual oilseed crop of the family Leguminosae and mainly grown for edible seeds. It is the most economical source of protein (40%) for human food and animal feed. The seeds also contain 18–22% edible oil and fulfil the demand of the food industry. In Pakistan, soybean oil production increased to 260 (Tons) in 2017 as compared to 240 (Tons) in 2016.

In 2016, the global soybean crop was planted on 120.48 million hectares, and 351.74 million metric tons of the seed were produced. The USA is the largest producer with 117.20 million metric tons followed by Brazil with 114 million metric tons and Argentina with 57.80 million metric tons (MMT).

According to the USDA estimate, worldwide soybean production for 2017–18 is expected to reach 347.4 million metric tons. 1  Today, most of the world’s soybeans are crushed or processed into soybean meal and oil. It is estimated that 2% of soybean production is consumed directly by humans as food, which amounts to approximately 3 MMT.

In 2014-15, Pakistan imported approximately 1.0 million tonnes of soymeal worth $150 million USD for poultry and livestock. In 2015-16, the demand slightly rose to 1.1 million tons of soybean grain worth $1.02 billion to fulfil the growing needs of the poultry and solvent industries.

The country’s establishing feed industry has shifted to importing whole grain instead of soybean meal from the United States and Brazil. The detailed information on soybean grain and products imported to Pakistan is given in There is huge potential to tap the local demand for soybeans by commercialising the soybean crop in Pakistan.

Moreover, the crop has been neglected for one reason or another, resulting in a decline in the area under cultivation. Soybean crop and two other non-conventional oilseed crops, viz., sunflower and safflower, were introduced in the mid-sixties, and commercial cultivation began in 1970–71.

In 1977–1978, coordinated research was started at the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) and provincial research institutes, and eight soybean varieties were developed. Efforts were being made to commercialize soybean crop among farmers. Mainly issues like lack of marketing of produce and its by-products, absence of adequate skills, knowledge and production technology and low economic return hindered soybean commercialization.

Most importantly, the unavailability of high yielding, climate-ready, and pest resistant soybean varieties is the major bottleneck in crop adoption.

There is huge potential for soybean production under favourable agro-climatic conditions in potential areas of Pakistan. With a strong agricultural system and diverse ecologies, the crop can be incorporated into existing spring and summer cropping patterns.

Various crop rotation combinations, i.e., rice, soybeans, cotton, wheat, Soybean Wheat, Wheat-Sorghum/Millet-Fallow- Soybean-soybean-wheat, and intercropping soybeans with corn, sorghum, cotton, or sugarcane are proposed as being potentially successful. In the rainfed area (Barani), most of the land remains fallow after wheat harvest until October or mid-November, which can be efficiently utilized for soybean production.

In addition to grain production, soybeans are a leguminous crop that increases soil fertility and helps enhance the yield of the next crop.  PARC is working with the Ministry of National Food Security and Agricultural Research to provide a platform for promoting and improving high yielding adaptable soybean varieties in the country through research; and enhance the technical capabilities of staff involved in basic seed production and development of new varieties.

Under this program, the organization is running a project on commercialization of soybean crop at National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC), Islamabad, Pakistan along with provincial partners. The project aims at increasing yield and production of the crop through improved cultivars and new mechanised production technology.

Developments of new, high-yielding, adaptable soybean varieties will offer new opportunities to small farmers whose land remains fallow after the wheat crop in the Kharif season. Under fast unfolding agro-climatic changes and weather patterns, there is a direct need to develop new varieties with higher yield potential that possess resistance against a number of diseases.

Strong government policies for promotion of local soybean production coupled with adequate research and development to make locally produced raw material competitive both in terms of value and quality will help increase reliance on the time-consuming and costly imports.

Wide scale soybean production in Pakistan will not only ensure a sustainable supply of raw material to the feed industry but also improve the socio-economic conditions and livelihood of farmers. It would further encourage the farmers to cultivate soybeans and increase local production for the animal and poultry feed industries as well as the private soy industry, which are the permanent consumers of this crop.