- Associated Press - Monday, December 1, 2014

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) - While soy products available in local stores has increased, the soybean has long been known as the “miracle bean” for its vast uses in everything from livestock feed and biodiesel to candles and plastics.

Farm Bureau hails the soybean as one of the oldest farm crops, dating back to more than 4,600 years ago in China, but the beans weren’t grown by U.S. farmers until 1829.

While he knows soybeans can be used in hundreds of ways, Brookland farmer Scott Gibson said most farmers don’t know happens to the beans they grow, the Jonesboro Sun (https://bit.ly/1rdqH5c ) reported.

“The closest I could get is to tell you that I grow some non-GMO (non-genetically modified organism), and non-GMOs are used in organic foods,” he said. “Most farmers aren’t going to know what happens with what they grow after it’s been harvested and sold. My beans could end up in a feed lot, poultry house, China or in a factory somewhere being used to make carpet padding, crayons or even panels on tractors.”

Gibson said most local soybeans go to West Memphis or Osceola, but from there they could end up as far away as China - which has a substantial market for soybeans.

“About the only way you’d know is if you grew a specialty type of bean,” he said. “There are a small number of producers in Arkansas who are growing specialty beans, which are the edible beans. It’s their traits that set them apart, though.”

Gibson said seeing the specialty beans in the fields, most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between them or the non-edible varieties.

In the 1930s, Henry Ford asked scientists to find a way to use soybeans, and the lab produced a strong soy plastic that could be used for gearshift knobs, horn buttons, window frames, accelerator pedals and more. By the 1940s, Ford was using a bushel of soybeans for every car he manufactured - including soy plastic panels on his automobiles’ exteriors.

As the push to become more environmentally friendly has picked up in the past few decades, experts are finding more uses for the “miracle bean,” including household products, industrial materials and foods.

Stan and Crystal Warner own Southern Soy Scents, a Marion-based candle company which was founded in 2003 by Tim and Stacy Parker. The Warners sell a variety of their products in several Northeast Arkansas stores.

“It’s steady and slowly growing in popularity and has been for the past 11 years,” Stan Warner said. “It supports the farmers, and it’s natural.”

According to Stan Warner, he sometimes finds his dogs eating the wax drippings, but he’s OK with it.

“My dogs are healthy,” he said. “The wax is completely safe and non-toxic.”

Crystal Warner said the soy wax produces a clean burning candle.

“They’re all hand-poured, and they’re just beautiful,” she said.

“The soy wax candles burn at a lower temperature than traditional candles, and we use 100 percent cotton wicks,” her husband added.

The Warners’ soy candles are one of many products becoming more popular as a trend in manufacturing with renewable resources continues to grow.

For more than a decade, panels made from soy plastics have been used on tractors, combines and other agricultural equipment. Soybeans are also used for industrial paint, varnishes, caulking compounds and printing inks.

According to Farm Bureau, American livestock consume 22.5 million tons of soybean meal per year, while the average American consumes seven gallons of soybean oil each year.

Farm Bureau statistics indicate that 91 percent of the state’s soybean production is used as poultry feed, while 5 percent is used for human consumption.

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Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, https://www.jonesborosun.com


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