Farm Food Facts

Soybeans used in tires, shoes, plywood and more!

July 18, 2023 USFRA
Soybeans used in tires, shoes, plywood and more!
Farm Food Facts
More Info
Farm Food Facts
Soybeans used in tires, shoes, plywood and more!
Jul 18, 2023

Send us a Text Message.

Get ready to be soy-amazed! Join us as we chat with leading expert and soy farmer extraordinaire, Laurie Isley, who spills the "bean" on all things soy. From soy-based shoes that are trendy as they are eco-friendly, to mind-blowing uses you never knew existed with tires, plywood, dust suppressant, turf and more. This episode will leave you hungry for more knowledge about the extraordinary uses of soybeans. 


Learn more:

Find soy-based products:

Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

Get ready to be soy-amazed! Join us as we chat with leading expert and soy farmer extraordinaire, Laurie Isley, who spills the "bean" on all things soy. From soy-based shoes that are trendy as they are eco-friendly, to mind-blowing uses you never knew existed with tires, plywood, dust suppressant, turf and more. This episode will leave you hungry for more knowledge about the extraordinary uses of soybeans. 


Learn more:

Find soy-based products:

Speaker 1 (01:36):
Thanks again for joining us on Farm Food Facts. I'm your host, Joanna Guza, and today our conversation might have you saying, no way. Can that be true? I'm sure our great-great grandfathers wouldn't believe where we are today in agriculture. There's a lot of innovation happening in the agriculture industry, and today our focus is on soybeans. There are more than 1000 different soy based products available on the market today. The soybean oil is a reliable and renewable ingredient that can replace petroleum-based compounds and satisfy con and satisfy consumer demands for sustainable environmentally friendly products. Today we're gonna spotlight a few of those products with Laurie Isley, a fifth generation soybean farmer from Michigan, and also a United Soybean Board, farmer Leader, chair of the Communication and Education Committee, and a board member of US Farmers and Ranchers in action, which provides this podcast. Laurie, let's first start by talking about something that impacts all of us and that's our vehicles. How are soybeans being used?

Speaker 2 (02:55):
Soybeans are everywhere around us, but one of the most exciting places where we find them certainly is in the automobile industry and in our roads. And it's just really exciting to see some of the areas that we've managed to expand into and people think soybeans, they often just think, oh, that's feed for animals, or I might have tofu or whatever it is, but we're just really excited about the breadth of the things that can be covered. And one of the most exciting of those is the use of soybean oil in tires. And we have a partnership with Goodyear and that started several years ago. And that partnership was designed to help Goodyear begin to look at the feasibility of replacing petroleum products with soybean oil. And what they found was that it was a very admir very, um, efficient way of using it. And it had so many different benefits.

Speaker 2 (03:50):
So their goal now once they've tried it and it's in several of their products already, is to completely replace all of their petroleum products by 2040. So we're really excited about that. They used, um, they increased it by about their use of soybean oil by about 90% back in 2019. 73% in 2020. So it just keeps going on and on. And what they found is not only is it a more environmentally friendly solution, but it also makes the tires work better, particularly in cold climates, which we have a lot of here in Michigan. So it's pretty exciting to see that not only is it an equally good, um, product, but it is even a better product than what they were using before. So those are the kinds of things that we do, um, that we look for when we're using checkoff dollars to do some of that research.

Speaker 1 (04:41):
Right. And I know there's also some efforts with biofuels and asphalt. Can you share a little bit more about the efforts with soybeans used in that area?

Speaker 2 (04:50):
Certainly, um, biofuels, the whole biofuel industry was really started by farmers that said, we need to find a use for some of this, some of this oil. And so we began to look at how could we use that as an alternative fuel source. And certainly what we found is that by doing that we have added a significant amount of value to our soybeans. And we have found that it is as the country and particularly states such as, um, California and Washington, New York also is a significant user of biofuels that it can really impact our ability to mitigate, um, our greenhouse emissions. So that's been one of the major areas that they've done with that. So they've, in 2022, they said refiners have used about 8.7 billion pounds of soybean oil. That's really hard, just to wrap your head around. That was 7.4, um, billion pounds more than what they had used a year before that.

Speaker 2 (05:53):
So just the tremendous growth in that area. Just as one more example of how versatile soybeans can be. We also talked, you mentioned the asphalt, which is another area. Certainly all of us have had issues with, um, with roads, certainly I know it is here in Michigan about, um, roads trying to keep them maintained and trying to, the cost of doing that as, as well as making 'em last longer. And we've determined through our research that's funded through USB, that we can create products that will, again, take the place of petroleum products and that are, that will help those, um, that asphalt, um, stick together better. That will help it also, um, maintain better during the freezing and thawing cycles. So there's just been a lot of products that have come through that and they're able to use more of what they grind up from the old, um, roads when they're making the new roads. So it all sounds somewhat, um, farfetched, but it's just one other area where we could actually, um, begin to say, this is a crop. We grow on our farms every year, yet it can be used in all of these various industrial applications. So it's pretty exciting.

Speaker 1 (07:07):
It is very exciting. It just goes back to the point of can that be true? No way <laugh>. But it sounds like a lot of really great opportunity that's happening for farmers and, and for just the general public to be able to use these products. Another item that we use daily, uh, that soybeans are impacting is shoes. Can you tell me more about that? Well,

Speaker 2 (07:28):
That's one of our favorites. Um, most of you're familiar with the, the Skechers Shoe company and Skechers actually worked with Goodyear, so this was kind of an offshoot of that, um, investment that we made. And so now that same technology that Goodyear uses in its tires sketcher now uses in their goal run collection, and they're looking at expanding that even further. Right now they offer 122 different shoes, boots, sandals, sneakers that all contain soy, and I have a pair and they're cool <laugh>. They're, they are just, um, it's just a great way to see that move into those different areas. So there's a chance if you look for those, there's another, um, company also called Abaci, and they make sandals that are soy based and they use about 45% soy by weight in their sandals. So that's just another opportunity where we're beginning to look at how soy can be used in something you would put on your feet every morning.

Speaker 1 (08:28):
Right. Kudos to you all for thinking outside of the box and finding these new products for people to enjoy. Now, with the dry weather we've been experiencing, we may be seeing a lot of dust. Soybean soybeans has a solution for that, and that's a soy base dust suppressant. Tell me more about that.

Speaker 2 (08:47):
Well, this was developed in, um, coordination with one of our state checkoff boards. In this case it happened to be with the North Dakota Soybean Council. So each state has their own, um, checkoff board as well as, the US Soy Checkoff board. And so we oftentimes, if they come up with a good idea, we can help to, um, enhance that. And so they came up with a bio-based soil, um, dust suppressant that will drive that will hopefully use more soybeans. That's really always our bottom line is how do we get more soybeans into the market? But this is called bio blend and it is available nationwide now as of about a year ago. It was nationwide and it can, it's made from soybean oil as well as glycerin, which is also a byproduct from making biodiesel. So one more level there. And they can use it on roads, they can use it at construction sites, wind farms have used them. Lots of other places where they can use that in order to keep the dust down. And again, it's often taking, usually takes the place of a petroleum based product. So when people think of what do I want, if there were to be runoff from these areas where we're using as dust suppressant, I want something that's that's natural that that is grown on farms rather than something that is petroleum based. So that answers a lot of those questions. And it's also, um, it's odorless, it's water soluble and it has many different environmental benefits.

Speaker 1 (10:16):
Right. And one thing I'm picking up on and when you're referencing when these products were started, is it, it wasn't that long ago, so you all have been very busy getting all these products to, you know, developing them and then getting them to market and working with your different partners. So again, kudos to you for, for all those efforts. Soybeans have a future in building a house. Can you share the specifics on that?

Speaker 2 (10:42):
Another area? Um, <laugh>, all the things that we have, um, worked with quite a bit, um, are are coming up with plywood and where they use the soybean oil as an adhesive to, um, put that plywood together. And so a product, um, by the name of Columbia Forest Products, it's their pure bond hard hardwood plywood, and they are available in Home Depots. So it's something that you can readily look for, but they, again, instead of what the product they used to use to put those together was formaldehyde based. And so this is an alternative to using something that, um, was both, um, was dangerous for the, the workers to be handling as well as some people were concerned about fumes and, and other issues you might have had from the products themselves. So being able to use the, the soybean as an alternative material for those adhesives really benefited, um, the company as well as provided something that was better for, for the consumer.

Speaker 2 (11:47):
So they used about a hundred and they made about 150 million panels of this pure bond plywood since 2005. So that's quite a bit. And if you laid those end to end, they said it would reach the moon. How's that for a visual <laugh>? Oh my gosh, gosh. Each one of those panels that is made, each plywood panel has about 2.3 pounds of soy flower in it. So that would be ground ground soy. So it's another area where we're just seeing that, um, go more and more. And there are other ones that are tied to that. I know there's been some research done on could, could soybean oil replace formaldehyde in forms of insulation? You know, could it be used in some other areas, um, that are found at, but there is also, um, there is a website if you want to learn a little bit more about how to find some of these soy-based products, and it's called

Speaker 1 (12:47):
Right. I I feel like this is not gonna end. And we have one more product that we're gonna talk about and then kind of ask Lori what's her perspective on the future of soybeans and some of that innovation. But one thing that we're all gonna start enjoying pretty soon, and I mean, baseball's happening right now, um, there's so much agriculture and sporting events that go unnoticed now. Now the turf could be made from a soybean product or byproduct. Can you tell me more about that?

Speaker 2 (13:16):
That is true in, again, in partnership with the soy checkoff, an organization by the name of Sinon has introduced the benefits of soy based turf to customers all across the country. I had the opportunity last year to, uh, meet with them and actually see the turf that they've used at the San Diego Zoo. And one of the reasons they picked it for that area was because of its ecological footprint, meaning that it was,um, friendly to the environments. So what they have now installed, Sinon has installed 82 million square feet of US soy bake backed artificial grass across 200,000 installations, both in the United States and in 19 other countries. And that's, again, just 2008. You're looking at a relatively short period of time where we, they had that idea and now they've just really expanded that. So they used about 23.7 tons of soy coating in 2022, and that was up from when they started when they were only using one and a quarter tons in 2008.

Speaker 2 (14:22):
So you're looking at a phenomenal increase in their use of soybeans to make this, but it's just a, I mean it, especially in areas where they have, where it's dry or on areas where you've got lots of wears such as football fields, baseball fields, and now you can find it anywhere from New York City Parks, the Las Vegas strip, and also football and baseball fields in the N F L, major League Baseball and the ncaa. So we are excited about where that has gone and they are great ambassadors for us because they just really feel strongly about the benefit of their product and their ability to partner with us soy to make a product that, um, meets the needs of their customers.

Speaker 1 (15:03):
Right. And that soybean could be coming from your fifth generation farm in Michigan, which is just so impressive. Now, Laurie, we just talked about so many different products that are using soybeans. What's the future innovations do you see in soybeans?

Speaker 2 (15:20):
I think every time we have a a checkoff meeting, most of the directors go away with, wow, what, what's next, what's next? And I mean, we've already, um, they've done like soy-based, um, straws, you know, that that break down. Of course there's a lot of concern in some areas about, about straws and, and them getting into our waterways and so on. They're looking at, at doing that kind of thing. They're also looking at many other things in the, the non-food space. We, um, it could be just other biodegradable plastics such as in agriculture, like the wraps they put around their hay bales. That would seem to be another area. Um, the pipe that farmers use to irrigate might be able to be made out of soy. Even the bags that we use for feed and for seed could perhaps be made from soy-based plastic. So there's just, um, really almost a limitless opportunity for, for new development in those areas.

Speaker 2 (16:21):
Even in looking at, um, lotions like Aveeno uses soy in their, in their lotions. So those kinds of areas that perhaps we've not really explored because I think it's, it's easy in agriculture to think, okay, this is the, you know, we have a product, it feeds livestock and it feeds people without. And just to be able to step back and have partnerships with the different state associations and also with universities and other research firms that are really willing to say, let's think outside the box. What else could we do with this so that we truly will get to the point where we see soy every life every day, that, that is really surrounding you and it's in almost everything that you do that it is a component of that. So we're really excited about where that might go in the future.

Speaker 1 (17:14):
Right. Lot of optimism, lot of, uh, potential in the future of soybeans. If you're interested in some of those products that Laurie was talking about, the website was We'll make sure we link that in the description. You can stay connected with future innovations of soybeans by following the United Soybean Boards website at Thanks you for listening. If there's something you'd like to hear or learn more about, just send me an email at Until next time, I'm Joanna Guza for Farm Food Facts.