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By Jill Lee
November 28, 1998

Four new soybean breeding lines developed especially for tofu production will offer small-scale farms new business opportunities. The Agricultural Research Service breeders who developed the lines say one in particular--NTCPR92-40--shows exceptional promise.

NTCPR92-40 has high protein and yields just 5 percent less than conventional varieties. Beans from the new line are three times bigger than Pearl soybeans, an earlier tofu breeding line release. Large size is important in tofu soybeans because bigger beans swell more and make tofu production easier. NTCPR92-40 grows best in the climates found in the Southeastern United States.

The four new lines produce “clear-eyed” soybeans--the round spot on the hull isn’t brown, another important selling point. Their seed coat and meat are a creamy yellow-white color, highly prized in tofu processing.

Large farms that handle a high volume of beans might not be well-suited for tofu-soybean farming, since beans for tofu production must be free of chips or stains. But small-scale farmers who are willing to take extra care in handling their beans could reap the rewards of the higher prices paid for tofu soybeans.

The United States has about 100 tofu processors. U.S. shoppers now spend $130 million to $150 million on tofu each year and they are doubling their consumption of tofu every three to four years, according to the Soyfood Center of Lafayette, Calif., which monitors tofu consumption trends.

Scientific contact: Thomas E. Carter is in the USDA-ARS Soybean and Nitrogen Fixation Research Laboratory, 3127 Ligon Street, Raleigh, N.C. 27695-7631; phone: (919) 515-2734, fax: (919) 515-7867; e-mail: