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Soybeans become more welcomed as nutritious food
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Soybeans become more welcomed as nutritious food

Snow began to thaw in late April in Heihe in China's northeastmost province of Heilongjiang. Soybean grower Li Fuqiang wasted no time to start spring ploughing at full steam.

In the following half month, Li and his team in a local agricultural cooperative would race against time -- working about 15 hours a day -- to plant about 160,000 mu (10,666.7 hectares) of soybeans.

Heilongjiang is known as China's grain barn. Heihe alone boasts more than 20 million mu of soybean producing area. The city's soybean output in 2023 registered 2.6 billion kg to sustain its first rank in the country, accounting one seventh of the country's total.

Li and his four partners set up the agricultural cooperative in 2012 to contract the agricultural fields owned by over 1,200 rural households for soybean growing. The incorporative farm has realized whole-process mechanized farming from spring sowing to autumn harvest.

Such an approach of modernized and large-scale soybean farming has been commended by the local authorities, which conferred the title "Soybean King" to Li.

With Chinese people's rising demand for healthy food, soybeans with rich contents of isoflavones and lecithin have become more and more welcomed as nutritious food.

In 2023, China imported 160 million tonnes of grain, of which soybeans account for the lion's share. Li Guoxiang, a researcher at the Rural Development Institute, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that China's soybean supply is highly dependent on imports, and it is of great importance to make expanding soybean planting a policy priority.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, China will continue to expand the soybean planting area to above 150 million mu this year. The government will support the northeast region to develop the whole industrial chain of soybean processing and soybean-related agricultural products.

Research institutes, such as the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, have been motivated to assist the supply of high quality soybean varieties.

The Heilongjiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences will introduce a new gene-edited soybean variety to the market this year. Ren Honglei, an associate researcher of the academy, said the new strain has proved to have a yield of 300 kg per mu with the seed's protein content exceeding 42 percent and oil content exceeding 23 percent.

The city of Heihe has also been actively developing soybean's extended industries, from soybean-flavored food such as ice cream, pasta, tempeh, vegetarian meat and drinks to soybean-contained pharmaceutical, textile and fine chemical products.

XinhuaGu Yetao

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