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( Symbiotic Nitrogen Fixing Bacteria )


BULLETIN No. 10                              APRIL, 1935

Soy Beans

( brought from China by Henry Ford. )

"I BELIEVE that industry and Agriculture are natural partners. Agriculture suffers from lack of a market for its product. Industry suffers from a lack of employment for its Surplus men, Bringing them together heals the ailments of both. I see the time coming when a farmer not only will raise raw materials for industry, but will do the initial processing on his farm. He will stand on both his feet––one foot on soil for his livelihood; the other in industry for the cash he needs. Thus he will have a double security. That is what I'm working for!"

– Henry Ford –


Industrial Products Made From Soy Beans


    • Enamels used on Ford Bodies
    • House Paints
    • Varnishes
    • Linoleum and Oil Cloth
    • Printers Ink
    • Glycerin
    • Fatty Acids
    • Soap
    • Foundry Sand Cores
    • Vegetable Shortening
    • Oleomargarine
    • Diesel Fuel


    • Molded Parts
    • Horn Buttons
    • Gear Shift Knobs
    • Distributor Parts
    • Light Switch Assembly
    • Timing Gears
    • Glues and Adhesives
    • Water Paints
    • Core Bonds
    • Plywood Glues


    • Mbers–Pressed Boards
    • Furfural

These products and many others have been made in the laboratories of


Recent developments have firmly established the soybean as an important industrial farm crop. Soybean oil has been successfully incorporated in paints, varnishes, soaps, and many edible products and has proved to be the most versatile of all vegetable oils. The meal is now being used in the manufacture of molded parts such as horn buttons, distributor parts, and gearshift knobs. The ever-widening market that is the result of these new found uses has been responsible for an active interest in the soybean and the proper methods of culture.

In answer to many inquiries received on this subject we have compiled this booklet. We have attempted to give, briefly, the essential cultural practice necessary to the successful raising of soy beans. These methods vary from the accepted practices in that solid planting has been advised and cultivation after planting considered unnecessary. After three years' experience with the soy bean during which we have raised over twenty thousand acres of them, we feel justified in suggesting this variation because we have found that it materially reduces the cost per bushel of seed produced. Aside from the exceptions mentioned, the cultural practices recommended have been used for many years throughout the United States and are recommended by the agricultural department in all the states where soy beans are grown.

Soy Bean Seed Production In Michigan


SOY BEANS were not grown extensively in Michigan as a seed crop until the last few years, when the Ford Motor Company became interested in their commercial possibilities and began growing them on a large scale. As a result considerable interest has been shown concerning their value as a Michigan crop and the methods to be used in their culture.

The soy bean offers many advantages to the farmer. Because it is a legume it has the ability, when properly inoculated, to take free nitrogen from the air for its own growth and to store in the soil. Soy beans may be grown to advantage on land too acid for other legumes. They are remarkably drought-resistant, are not injured by excessive moisture, and are not very subject to insects and disease. They work well in the average rotation and rank well as a cash crop. In case of failure of other hay crops, they may be cut as hay, since they make excellent forage and furnish a rich nitrogenous roughage that is equal to alfalfa in minerals and digestible nutrients. Because of these desirable features they are a safe and dependable crop, and offer great possibilities to the Michigan farmer.


Soy beans are adapted to various climatic and soil conditions. They are especially adapted to growth in the northern half of the cotton belt and in the corn belt where the later varieties can be grown. These later varieties make extensive cultivation profitable because they give higher yields. They may be grown as far north as central Michigan if the proper varieties are used. The period of germination is the most critical stage; for it is then that prolonged drought or excessive moisture is most likely to be injurious. After the bean is well started it will survive short periods of drought or excessive moisture without serious reduction of the growth or the yield of the crop. The soy bean is less susceptible to frost than the cowpea, the field bean, or corn. Light frosts have but little effect on the plant when young or when nearly matured.


Soy beans are, adapted to a wide range of soil conditions and if properly handled can be profitably grown in any soil in which ordinary crops are grown. They are adapted to about the same general conditions as corn, but will produce a fair yield on land too poor to grow good corn. While they will grow in soil too acid for alfalfa and clover, they yield better in ground well supplied with lime. However, like other crops, they attain their best development in the more fertile soils, preferably a rich, sandy loam.


Successful soy bean production is very largely dependent on proper soil preparation. The seed bed must be firm and there must be enough loose soil to cover the seeds well and sufficient moisture to sprout them promptly.

The ground should be prepared by either fall or spring plowing followed by harrowing or disking at frequent intervals from the latter parts of April until planting time. Seed should be planted immediately after harrowing, because this will kill the weeds just starting to grow and thus give the good seed at least an even chance with the weed seeds that remain. Thorough and proper preparation of the bed will minimize the weed menace later in the season. This is especially necessary when the crop is drilled solid or broadcast for hay, pasture, or green manure. Soy beans do well without fertilizing, although 300 to 500 pounds per acre of acid phosphate on good land or the same amount of 0-12-6 on sandy soil usually pays.


In order to obtain the most benefit from a soy bean crop, only the varieties best suited to local conditions and to the purpose to which it is to be put should be used. Although high yield of seed or of forage is the most important single consideration, other factors, such as habits of growth, maturity, coarseness of stems, disease resistance, color and size of the seed, tendency to shatter, are also very important. If the beans are to be used for oil and oil meal, the percentage of oil and the color of the seed should be considered in addition to seed production.

Manufacture of oil and oil meal prefer the yellow–seeded varieties, not only because of the higher oil percentage, but also because the meal or flour is of better appearance.

The following varieties have been tested at the Edison Institute Experimental Farm and found well suited to the production of seed under conditions found at Dearborn.

Manchu: Plants stout, erect, bushy, 38 inches high, maturing in 140 days; pubescence tawny; flowers both purple and white, taking 55 to 65 days to bloom; pods with 2 to 3 seeds; seeds straw yellow with brown hilum, germ yellow, oil 18.9 per cent, about 3,325 to the pound; yield, 18 bushels per acre.

Illini: Pure line selection from the A. K. variety produced by the Illinois Agricultural Experiment Station. Plants stout, erect, bushy, 36 inches high, maturing in about 135 days; pubescence gray; flowers white, taking 55 to 65 days to bloom pods 2 to 3 seeded; seeds straw yellow with brown hilum, germ yellow, oil 18.6 per cent, about 2,750 to the pound; yield, 19.1 bushels per acre.

Ito San: Plants stout, erect, bushy, 29 inches high, maturing in 120 days; pubescence tawny; flowers purple, taking 50 to 60 days to bloom; pods 2 to 3 seeded; seeds straw yellow with yellow hilum and small brown speck at one end of hilum, germ yellow, oil 18.5 per cent, about 3,325 to the pound; yield, 18.6 bushels per acre.

Dunfield: Plants stout, erect, bushy, 33 inches high, maturing in 140 days; pubescence gray; flowers white or purple, taking 55 to 65 days to bloom; pods 2 to 3 seeded; seeds straw yellow with light brown hilum, germ yellow, oil 19.8 per cent, about 3,175 to the pound; yield, 16.5 bushels per acre.

Mandarin: Plants, stout, erect, bushy, 27 inches high, maturing in 130 days; pubescence gray; flowers purple, taking 55 to 65 days to bloom; pods 2 to 3 seeded; seeds straw yellow Nvitli yellow hilum, germ yellow, oil 19.8 per cent, about 2,900 to the pound; yield, 16.5 bushels per acre.

Greenfield: Plants stout, erect, bushy, 32 inches high, maturing in 140 days; pubescence gray; flowers both purple and White, taking 55 to 65 days to bloom; pods 2 to 3 seeded; seeds straw yellow with light brown hilum, germ yellow, oil 19.2 per cent, about 2,650 to the pound; yield, 25.4 bushels per acre.

These varieties have been tested for three consecutive years (1932, 1933 and 1934) and the heights, flowering dates, maturing dates, and yields have been determined by these tests. While the figures differ somewhat from those given out by the Government experiment stations in the various states, these differences are probably due to variations in climatic conditions; it is probable that our figures are representative for southern Michigan.

The following table gives the figures for these years:
Variety Year Date Planted Date Flowered Date Matured Matured Height Yield Bu. Per Acre
Manchu 1932 6-11 8-12 1O-26 42 in. –––
1933 5-27 7-2 10-16 38 in. 16.08
1934 5-18 7-18 10-10 36 in. 19.47
60 days 140 days 38 in. 18.00
Illine 1932 6-11 8-5 10-12 34 in. –––
1933 5-27 7-27 10-13 41 in. 19.1
1934 5-17 7-17 10-10 32 in. –––
60 days 135 days 36 in. 19.1
Ito San 1932 6-11 8-3 10-26 28 in. –––
1933 5-27 7-26 9-30 36 in. 19.2
1934 5-17 7-12 9-17 24 in. 18.13
55 days 120 days 29 in. 18.66
Dunfield 1932 6-11 8-12 10-25 36 in. –––
1933 5-27 8-1 10-16 34 in. 16.50
1934 5-17 7-17 10-4 29 in. –––
60 days 140 days 33 in. 16.50
Mandarin 1932 6-11 8-5 10-14 25 in. –––
1933 5-27 7-27 10-4 26 in. 16.2
1934 5-17 7-18 10-4 29 in. 16.85
60 days 130 days 27 in. 16.50
Greenfield 1932 6-11 8-5 10-14 29 in. –––
1933 5-27 7-27 10-17 33 in. 25.10
1934 5-17 7-18 10-10 34 in. 25.68
60 days 140 days 32 in. 25.4

These tests were conducted in soil classified as a mellow, sandy loam. The land is quite level, of fair natural drainage, and free from stones. It has a pH of 6.0, is low in nitrates and phosphorus, and contains a medium amount of potassium.

Although it has been farmed for years, it has never been fertilized or limed to our knowledge. It is quite homogeneous to a depth of several feet and retains sufficient moisture to enable the crops grown on it to withstand considerable drought. The texture and structure of the soil are such that it is easily maintained in a good mulch condition.

The average annual rainfall in the Dearborn area is 31.34 inches, and from May through October the fall is 17.85 inches. This is usually distributed quite evenly throughout the growing season, the mean varying from 2.39 to 3.46 inches. The precipitation for the three years under consideration, during the six months from May through October, was as follows:

              1932         1933            1934       60 Year Average

May        5.42 inches  3.29 inches     0.58 inches     3.28 inches
June       1.35	   "    1.19    "       1.39    "       3.46    "
July       3.11	   "    2.47    "       1.64    "       3.23    "
August     4.02	   "    2.24    "       1.84    "       2.27    "
September  4.05	   "    1.94    "       2.89    "       2.77    "
October	   3.78    "    1.45    "       1.34    "       2.39    "

Total     21.73	   "   12.54    "       9.67    "      17.67    "

An abnormally wet spring was responsible for the late planting in 1932, and because of an extremely wet fall and inadequate facilities for threshing, the yields were not determined. A severe drought in 1934 held the beans back during their early growing period and probably reduced their yield. That year had the lowest rainfall since 1899. The year 1933 was also very dry, though the drought did not occur until the beans were well started and therefore did not have quite so much effect on them.


One of the most important features of the soy bean is that it is a legume, and therefore has the ability, when properly inoculated, to take free nitrogen from the air, which it ordinarily cannot utilize, and combine it with other elements to form a nitrogen–bearing compound that can be absorbed by the plant.

{ The Rhizobium bacteria, deriving their food and shelter from the plant, take molecular nitrogen (N2) from the air and excrete ammonia (NH4+). The ammonia (NH4+) is then used for food by other bacteria. These oxidize the nitrogen, releasing energy, and then, they excrete nitrates (NO3),   which the plant then absorbs and utilizes. Sufficient Molybdenum (Mo) must be present in order for the nodules to form properly and for the plant to reduce the nitrate nitrogen, as its first step in protein production. A tiny amount of Molybdenum salt can be added during the seed inoculation procedure. — Tommy C. — }

This process is called symbiotic nitrogen fixation and takes place through the agency of nitrogen fixation bacteria which attach themselves to the roots of the plants, causing wart-like enlargements ( nodules ) or tubercles, on the roots. The type of bacteria that will inoculate soy beans is not ordinarily found in the soil and varies with different species; when the crop is being planted on land that has not been recently inoculated for your strain, it is advisable to inoculate your seeds.

Nitrogen Fixing Nodules.
Click to take a slide tour of the factory.   Nodules on the roots of a peanut plant.
Click to See the Peanut's Germ

The most practical method of inoculation is to treat the seed at the time of planting. This may be done with soy bean bacterial cultures which may be obtained from most seed companies handling soy beans. The cultures are easily used if the directions that come with them are followed. The cost per acre with this method is about forty cents. The seed may also be inoculated with soil from a well–inoculated field. This process is as follows:

Mix a quantity of soil with an equal amount of water. Stir together for several minutes so that the bacteria may be washed into the water. After allowing the soil to settle and removing the refuse from the surface of the liquid, sprinkle about one pint of the water over each bushel of seed and mix thoroughly so that all the seed will be moistened. The seed should be planted immediately after this treatment, because the bacteria do not live long after the beans become dry. After treatment, the beans should be kept in the shade, the direct rays of the sun being harmful to the bacteria.


Soy beans should not be planted until after the danger of a killing frost is over and the soil has become sufficiently warm to germinate the seed quickly. There is little to be gained in planting before this time; for the plants Will not grow much until the soil warms up, and trouble may result from weeds. In the vicinity of Dearborn, planting should take place between May 15 and June 1, for best results. By this time, most of the weed seeds in the soil will have germinated and can be eliminated by proper working of the soil before planting.


The amount of seed required to plant an acre varies with the varieties used. It is proportional to the size of the seed, being less with the small seeded varieties, which run as high as 10,000 seeds per pound, and more with the large seeded varieties, running as low as 1,160 seeds per pound. The varieties recommended in this pamphlet for growing in Michigan require 6 to 8 pecks per acre to drill solid.


The ideal depth to plant varies somewhat according to the type of soil and soil conditions; it should never exceed two inches even in sandy ground, and in heavy soils one inch is usually sufficient. Seeding should be just deep enough to provide sufficient moisture to effect germination, and should never exceed two inches even if the ground is dry at that depth, or the seedlings will have difficulty in breaking through the surface and poor stands may result.


If a grain drill is available the beans should be drilled in solid like wheat or oats and planting should be heavy. This will insure a good stand because thick planting will crowd out the weeds and break through any crust that might form, thus eliminating the need for cultivation.

If a grain drill is not available the beans may be drilled in rows. The rows should never exceed 28 inches in width, or low yields may result. If the beans are planted in rows it will be necessary to cultivate in order to control the weeds.


Combine: Several implements may be used in harvesting soy beans. Of these the combine is undoubtedly the best from the standpoint of time, labor and efficiency. Unless large acreages are grown, however, or unless the combine may be used for other small grains, the cost of machinery prohibits its use. It has many advantages over other methods of harvesting and is a worth–while investment for any farmer or group of farmers who grow soy beans on a large scale. The combine cuts the matured beans, and elevates them to the cylinder where they are threshed–out. The straw and beans are separated by being passed over vibrating screens. The beans dropping through the screens are cleaned by an air blast, and are then conveyed up to a hopper from which they can be emptied at intervals into a wagon or truck, or run into sacks and dropped off the machine. The straw and trash are carried to the rear of the thresher, where they may be spread over the land with a beater or be With all this done in a single operation, a great deal of time and labor is saved, harvesting costs are reduced and the length of time required for harvesting is shortened. Thus, the farmer is enabled to take full advantage of favorable weather conditions. Because the beans are handled less there is a minimum of loss from shattering. The plants are left standing until fully matured and are consequently of better appearance and greater vitality than when cut earlier, as it is necessary to do with other methods. The standing beans are not injured by unfavorable weather conditions as much as the beans that are cut and shocked. For this reason it is not necessary to harvest as soon as the beans are matured; they may be harvested at any time during the winter months when other work is slack. Because of these many advantages, combines are used almost exclusively on the Ford Farms.

Binder: The method of harvesting most extensively used is cutting with a bidder, shocking and threshing. In order to prevent serious loss from shattering when binding, the beans should be harvested before they are fully matured. The best time is when most of the leaves have fallen and the pods have almost reached maturity but still contain sufficient moisture to prevent shattering. The bundles should be small and loosely bound, with eight or ten to a shock. The shocks may be left on the field until threshing time, or if it is necessary to remove the crop from the field before this, they may be stacked as soon as thoroughly dry.

When the beans are to be harvested with a mower they should be cut before they are fully matured, raked into small cocks and allowed to cure before threshing.

Mower: If for any reason a binder cannot be used...
a mower with a side delivery attachment or a self–rake reaper
will give quite satisfactory results.

After cutting, the crop should be placed in small cocks, where, under favorable weather conditions, they will become dry enough to thresh in five or ten days. If the piles become wet, they should be turned frequently to prevent damage to the seed.


It is necessary to make several adjustments in the ordinary thresher to get the best results with soy beans. The speed of the cylinder must be reduced to about one–half the normal threshing rate; the first concave should be removed and a wood blank substituted in order to reduce the cracking of the beans to a minimum. By doubling the size of the pulley on the cylinder shaft, the cylinder speed may be reduced without reducing the speed of the separating and cleaning mechanism.


After threshing, care must be taken to prevent heating and molding, which are likely to occur if the beans are improperly dried or are stored without proper provision for ventilation. They should never be bulked in large quantities if their moisture content exceeds 15 per cent, but should be spread out where they may dry, or be put up in burlap sacks and stored with space between the bags. If stored in large lots, they should be examined frequently for heating or molding, and if this occurs they must be moved immediately; if they are properly dried before storing, however, there will be little trouble of this kind. If the beans are to be used for seed, these precautions are doubly necessary, since their vitality drops rapidly when they are stored under unfavorable conditions. Soy beans are seldom attacked by weevils or other grain insects.

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