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"S" is for Soybeans

South Carolina From A to Z
SC Public Radio

"S" is for Soybeans. An important cash crop widely grown in South Carolina, soybeans were first cultivated as a soil builder and animal fodder. Farmers simply broadcast the seeds and turned livestock into the fields to forage. Recognizing the crop’s potential to free the state’s farmers from “King Cotton,” the agriculturalist John Edward Wannamaker worked to develop soybean varieties that would thrive in South Carolina. Soybeans became a cash crop in the state in the late 1940s. Farmers liked the crop’s low fertilizer requirements and soil-building character. The advent of reliable harvesting combines hastened the spread of soybean culture. By the early 1960s soybeans were an important part of the state’s agricultural economy. South Carolina soybean production peaked in 1982 at 1.8 million acres. But by the twenty-first century, production had fallen to about 400,000 acres.

Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar receivedhisA.B.degreefromDavidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.