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LEGUMES

History. Soybean, one of the most popular legumes, is one of the oldest cultivated crops. Cultivated soybeans probably arose from a wild type in Asia and moved to Eu- rope and North America in the eighteenth century. Soy- bean soon became the third most important agronomic crop in the United States. Cowpeas were introduced to the West Indies and ultimately spread throughout the southern United States after the seventeenth century. Field beans (Phaseolus spp.) were cultivated by American Indians at the time of the European discovery of North America and soon were introduced to Europe. The pop- ular peanut, introduced into the United States from Brazil when the colonies were established, was commercially de- veloped in the mid-eighteenth century.

Peas, including garden peas, field peas, broad beans, lentils, and chickpeas, were introduced into the Ameri- cas from Europe and the Near East. Jicama is grown in Southeast Asia, Mexico, and Central America. Winged beans were introduced into more than sixty countries, primarily subtropical and tropical, after the mid-1970s.

Primary Food Legumes

Soybean (Glycine max). Soybean is the most impor- tant legume produced in the agricultural industry world- wide. It is an annual crop, is easy to grow, and is adapted to a temperate climate. A hot weather crop, soybean re- quires a minimum of 59ºF (15°C) for seed germination and mean temperatures of 68–77ºF (20°–25°C) for crop growth. Only moderate soil moisture is needed for ger- mination and seedling establishment, but dry weather is essential for dry seed production. Soybeans suffer when the soil is waterlogged, and established plants tolerate drought.

Soybeans should be fertilized with phosphorous, potassium, and micronutrients, and they require typical agricultural field preparation. The important differences among soybean cultivars are day-length response, pest re- sistance, and production. These varieties are subdivided into groups according to tropical, subtropical, or tem- perate climate adaptation (Martin, 1988).

Several major obstacles obstruct optimum soybean production. Diseases cause one-eighth of all soybean losses. Noteworthy diseases and their causal agents in- clude bacterial blight (Pseudomonas glycinea), bacterial pustule (Xanthomonas phaseoli var. sojense), and wildfire (Pseudomonas tabaci). However, the most devastating dis- eases are caused by fungi, including brown stem rot

(Cephalosporium gregatum), stem canker (Diaporthe phase-

olorum var. batatatis), pod and stem blight (Diaporthe phaseolorum var. sojae), brown spot (Septoria glycines), and sclerotial blight (Sclerotium rolfsii). Mosaic virus disease, root knot nematode (Meloidogyne spp.), and cyst nema- tode (Heterodera glycines) also cause significant soybean losses.

The chemical composition of mature soybeans varies with the cultivar plus the soil and climate conditions.

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Generally, the black-seeded cultivars are protein rich with low oil content, and the yellow-seeded types are oil rich with low protein. The nutritional components of dried seeds are 5.0 percent to 9.4 percent water, 29.6 per- cent to 50.3 percent protein, 13.5 percent to 24.2 per- cent fat, 14.0 percent to 23.9 percent carbohydrate, 2.8 percent to 6.3 percent fiber, and a large amount of vita- min B. Soybean seeds contain a higher amount of pro- tein than any other pulse and most other foodstuffs.

Soybean oil is about 51 percent linoleic acid, 30 per- cent oleic acid, and 6.5 percent linolenic acid and is used as a cooking oil, salad oil, shortening, and margarine. Soybean flour is mixed with wheat flour in baked prod- ucts, such as bread, cakes, cookies, and crackers, and it is also used in ice cream, candy, and pudding. In Asia soy- beans are consumed as soybean milk, soy sauce, soups, drinks, breakfast foods, and vegetables. People in eastern Asia eat unripe seeds and dried seeds, and elsewhere these large seeds are consumed as shelled green beans or as dry beans. Both the Bansei and the Green Giant cultivars are among the more popular soybeans. In the West soybeans are a primary ingredient of Worcestershire sauce, made by mixing boiled beans with wheat flour and salt, then fermenting the mixture with the fungus Aspergillus oryzae for up to one week. The fermented beans are submerged in brine and exposed to the sun for several months to ex- tract the flavor. In Indonesia boiled beans are fermented with Aspergillus and formed into cakes.

Soybeans are used industrially in paints, linoleum, inks, soaps, insecticides, and disinfectants. Soy meal, the residue of oil extraction, is a healthy livestock feed (Purse- glove, 1981). Soybeans are also used in the pharmaceu- tical and nutraceutical industries. For example, Ensure glucerna, a dietary aid for diabetics, includes soybeans, and Estroven, marketed as a dietary supplement with nat- ural phytoestrogens, contains isoflavones, a group of an- tioxidants found in both humans and legumes, extracted from soybeans. While isoflavones do not show antioxi- dant activity in legumes, they serve various roles as pro- tectants, attractants, and repellents. Because of their antioxidant characteristics, it is possible that isoflavones make a healthy contribution to the human diet.

Groceries and other retail stores sell products that contain soybeans in some form, and American and Ori- ental restaurants offer foods with soybean constituents. In addition, many products sold as dietary supplements or nutraceuticals in health food stores include soybeans.

Field peas (Pisum arvense and Pisum sativum). The

green pea type of field pea became a food source in the sixteenth century. Field peas grow during the cool sea- son and develop flowers and seeds as the days become longer. Field peas have a variety of uses, and production has increased worldwide. At the beginning of the twenty- first century, U.S. production was estimated at 200,000 hectares, and Canadian production exceeded that three- fold. Major diseases include Ascochyta blight (Ascochyta

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