Soybeans were introduced into the United States in 1804 and became particularly important in the South and Midwest in the mid-20th century. Canada, Brazil and Argentina are also major producers.The soybean is an erect branching plant and can reach more than 2 metres (6.5 feet) in height.
In the United States the majority of soybean crops are genetically modified for resistance to the herbicide glyphosate. The soybean may be cultivated in most types of soil, but it thrives in warm, fertile, well-drained, sandy loam. The crop is planted after all danger of frost is past.
Soybeans are usually harvested mechanically, after the leaves have fallen off the plant and the moisture content of the seed has dropped to 13 percent, permitting safe storage. Like other legumes, the plant adds nitrogen to the soil by means of nitrogen-fixing bacteria and historically has been an important soil-enriching crop, though this practice is not common in most industrial agriculture systems.
Soybean and soybean derivatives exports in 2005 alone earned over US$9 billion for Brazil. Soybeans are now the third largest field crop in Canada in terms of farm cash receipts. As production and processing grow, Canada is becoming a more important soybean supplier and soybeans are becoming a more important force in the Canadian economy. Today soybeans have become an important crop in Quebec and Manitoba, as well as parts of the Maritimes, southeast Saskatchewan and south Alberta.
Soybean is bought and sold by investors and price speculators as a tradable commodity using soybean futures contracts. These “futures” are traded on the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT).