Soya Bean History

Native to East Asia, soya beans have been cultivated for over 3,000 years. Currently, there are 3,500 different soya bean varieties that are grown worldwide. This little miracle bean is a species of legume. Legumes have the ability to fix nitrogen and thus were indispensable for agriculture before the invention of artificial nitrogen production (Haber-Bosch process). Due to this ability, soya beans continue to be grown in crop rotation today. Here you will find detailed cultivation instructions for soya beans.


The early history of soya beans in Austria and Europe

Professor Friedrich Haberlandt, director of the Vienna University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences during the Austro-Hungarian Empire, initiated the first extensive soya bean cultivation trials in Europe. At the Vienna World's Fair of 1873, Haberlandt presented a soya bean variety suitable for cultivation in Central Europe. Haberlandt began to conduct his experiments in 1875, the year in which he also started to write his magnum opus titled Die Sojabohne – Ergebnisse der Studie und Versuche über die Anbauwürdigkeit dieser neu einzuführenden Culturpflanze (The soya bean – results of the study and experiments to determine whether this new field crop is worth cultivating), published in 1878.

After the passing away of Haberlandt soya bean cultivation in Europe vanished. In contrast, in the US Haberlandts research results lead to further field trials, followed by a large expansion of soya beans.Today soya is the largest source of plant protein.​


Soya bean cultivation worldwide


​The soya bean accounts for more than 50% of all oil plants. Cultivation rose from 17 million tonnes in 1960 to 315 million tonnes in 2015. About 6% of the worldwide agricultural land is dedicated to the cultivation of this miracle bean. No other crop has had such an enormous growth.

​Today soya is used for a wide range of applications. It is used in the first place as food and feed, but also by industries such as the cosmetics, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries. The lion's share of worldwide soya bean production ends up in the feeding trough. Among all domestic animal species, pigs, chickens, and cattle are most often fed on soya bean meal.

The world's major soya bean producers are Brazil, Argentina, and the USA. Europe is a very small soya bean producer by global standards; 0.4% of the worldwide agricultural land used for soya bean cultivation is located in European Union.


Soya bean producers in Europe


The five largest soya bean producing countries in Europe are Ukraine, Russia, Italy and Serbia followed by Romania, France, Hungary and Austria. In 2016 soya beans are grown on a total of 4.4 million hectares in Europe. In the countries of the Danube Soya Region the acreage of soya beans has received since 2012 a continuous growth. Nevertheless, soya occupies in EU countries (1) only approximately 11% of the grain maize area (the potential soya acreage refers in Europe to the currently cultivated grain maize acreage). This small share indicates a large potential for the expansion of soya in Europe. Danube Soya would welcome the expansion of this legume crop, as especially agro-ecosystem will benefit from it (2).