Soya is a plant grown mainly for its edible bean which can be used for various reasons. It is a legume known for its high nutritious quality.Here is a guild to soya beans farming.
Our agric editor who has been monitoring the soya bean value-chain reports that despite the fact that Nigeria is said to be the biggest producer of the crop in Africa, its production level has not achieved its full capacity. This is because soya bean farming in the country is still largely done by small farmers who grow the crop as a minor crop alongside major crops like maize, cowpea (beans) and cassava.
Some soya bean planters believe that the crop can be grown in many states in Nigeria using low agricultural input.
Why more farmers should go into soya bean farming
Aside from its domestic and economical values, soya bean enhanced soil fertility and could be used to control striga.
The market for soya bean in Nigeria was growing rapidly, with chances for improving the income of farmers.
It was indicated that the quick growth in the poultry sector in the past five years has also improved demand for soya bean meal in Nigeria.
It is also a prime source of vegetable oil in the international market. Soya bean has an average protein content of 40 per cent and is more protein-rich than any of the common vegetable or animal food sources found in Nigeria.
SALMA Oil Mills in Kano, Grand Cereals in Jos, ECWA Feeds in Jos, AFCOT Oil Seed Processors in Adamawa and PS Mandrides in Kano all process soya bean.
This means that there is a prepared market for interested farmers in the country.
Now at the local market, a measure of soya bean costs around N600; depending on the area, while a 50kg bag costs around N17,000.
The global demand for the crop nears about 11 million tonnes, while Africa’s annual expenditure of soya bean is about 619 thousand tonnes.
Best ways to farm soya bean
Planting of soya bean usually begins in June, and that it grows well on all kinds of soil, except deep soils with poor water retention.
Farmers that a crucial factor to consider when embarking on soya bean farming in Nigeria was rainfall.
Nigeria had a very favourable climatic circumstance that was ideal for soya bean to flourish. Good harvest depends mostly on adequate irrigation as the crop can also be grown in areas with lesser amounts of rainfall through irrigation.
Soya bean should not be farmed in sandy, gravelly, or shallow soils to prevent drought stress, it should not be grown in waterlogged soils or soils with surfaces that can crust, as this will lead to poor seedling emergence
Clear all vegetation before land preparation. The seedbed may be prepared manually with a hoe or an animal-drawn implement or tractor.
Well-prepared land guarantees good germination and reduces weed infestation. You can plant on ridges or on a flat seedbed.
Choosing your seeds
Specialists warn that soya bean variety selection should be based on maturity, yield potential, lodging, drought tolerance and resistance to pests and diseases.
The maturity period should be the first consideration when determining a variety suited to your geographical zone.
Consider varieties that are ahead maturing rather than late maturing in areas with low rainfall. Although later maturity enhances the yield potential, it is difficult to grow late maturing varieties in drier environments because of late season drought.
Farmers to use high quality seeds of the selected species as soya bean seeds easily lose their viability.
It is common for soya bean, even when stocked appropriately, not to germinate after 12 to 15 months in storage.
“Therefore, use seeds that are not more than 12 months old to assure good germination. Sort out the good seeds for planting to guarantee that they are free from insects, disease infestation and weed seeds. Do not buy seeds from the open market as the germination potential is not guaranted. Planting poor quality seeds will not produce a good yield.
Conducting germination test
It is recommends that the germination rate should be 85 per cent or more to obtain a good stand.
To conduct a quick seed germination test, select 400 seeds randomly and sow 100 seeds each in four wooden or plastic boxes or a capable seedbed. Sow one seed per hole at a distance of 10cm between the seeds. Soak cloth or paper-lined germination boxes or the seedbed well with water before sowing and provide water every morning and evening. Start counting the seedlings five days after sowing and obtain the counting within 10 days. A total count of 320 germinated seeds or more indicates a germination rate of 80 per cent and above. When the percentage of germination is 80 per cent or less, the seed rate has to be increased accordingly to achieve 100 per cent.
Good fertiliser recommendation for soya bean production relies on a good soil test. Under normal circumstances, soya bean as a legume should provide itself with nitrogen through biological nitrogen fixation. Until nodulation occurs, the soya bean plant depends on soil nitrogen for growth. Phosphorus is often the most deficient nutrient, therefore, apply optimum phosphorous fertiliser for good yield. The institute further advises farmers to incorporate the fertiliser into the soil during harrowing and levelling of the field.
Pests, diseases and weeds
Perennial and most annual weeds are an issue to soya bean in its early development stages. A properly timed weed control programme can minimise the effects of weeds. Weed control in soya bean could be manual or chemical, or both.
Manual weed control: Carry out the first weeding at two weeks after planting and the second at five to six weeks after planting. Prevent weeding immediately after a rainfall as this will lead to transplanting the weeds. Poor hoe weeding or delay in weeding can cause significant reduction in yield.
Chemical weed control: Herbicides, if used properly, are safe and helpful in controlling weeds in soya bean cultivation.
The choice of herbicide, however, depends on the predominant weed species and the availability of the herbicide. Herbicides are available for pre-emergence or post-emergence weed control in soya bean. If herbicide is applied at planting, one weeding may be required at five to six weeks after planting.
Several different insects infest soya bean fields, but few are normally of any economic importance, and the species that cause damage are usually not abundant enough to warrant control measures. In the vegetative stage, the crop is very tolerant of caterpillars but very susceptible to silverleaf whitefly attack.
Soya bean for shelling and fresh use are ready for harvest from 65 days after sowing. However, dry soya beans require 100 or more days to reach harvest.
Soya bean farmers advise that for green shell beans, soya bean could be harvested when pods are green, full and plump.