tea harvesting from Africa to India. Today we're staying closer to home with a massive yet curiously invisible crop: soybeans. Flickr user Clearly Ambiguous Unlike the iconic harvest images you see of corn, pumpkins, and autumn gourds, soybeans are a modest and quiet crop. They grow low to the ground like small green bushes, with plain green fields running for miles alongside unremarkable stretches of Midwest highways. And yet soybeans are one of the most important crops in the United States. In 2006 it was second only to corn in amount of acres insured by farmers. Most soybeans grown in the United States are used for oil and industrial production, as well as livestock feed. Only the immature (green) soybeans are eaten directly as edamame. By the time most soybeans are harvested they are mature and brown, slightly dried in their pods, like the beans pictured above.
• Soybean field in Piketon, Ohio; by Flickr user dok1.
• In Japan and China, sometimes soybeans are grown next to rice paddies. The nutrients from each crop feed the other. Image by Flickr user autan.
• Soybeans ready for harvest in Ontario, Canada; by Flickr user Bill Strong.
• Soybean harvest in progress in Indiana. Image by Flickr user Valerie Everett.
• Soybeans harvested and free of their pods. Image by Flickr user SK Photography.
• Heaps of Indiana soybeans piled up and waiting to be carried away by train. Image by Flickr user Valerie Everett. All images licensed for use under Creative Commons. Related: Harvest Time: Picking Tea in Kenya, Japan, and India