Soya is a plant grown mostly for its edible bean which can be used for different purposes. It is a legume known for its high nutritious value.
Our agric editor who has been monitoring the soya bean value-chain reports that despite the fact that Nigeria is said to be the largest producer of the crop in Africa, its production level has not attained 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 farmers that spoke with Daily Trust 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
Mallam Yinusa Jimoh, an Ilorin-based retired agric extension officer, told Daily Trust on phone that aside from its domestic and economical values, soya bean improved soil fertility and could be used to control striga.
He said the market for soya bean in Nigeria was growing fast, with opportunities for improving the income of farmers.
A handbook on soya bean produced by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) shows that the rapid growth in the poultry sector in the past five years has also increased demand for soya bean meal in Nigeria.
The IITA handbook reads in part: “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.”
According to IITA, 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 ready market for interested farmers in the country.
Presently 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
According to a long time soya bean farmer, Dr Awoniyi Joseph, planting of soya bean usually starts in June, and that it grows well on all kinds of soil, except deep soils with poor water retention.
Dr Joseph informed farmers that an important factor to consider when embarking on soya bean farming in Nigeria was rainfall.
He said Nigeria had a very favourable climatic condition that was ideal for soya bean to flourish. According to him, good harvest depends mostly on adequate irrigation as the crop can also be grown in areas with lesser amounts of rainfall through irrigation.
According to IITA, soya bean should not be planted in sandy, gravelly, or shallow soils to avoid drought stress, advising that 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, IITA advised.
Well-prepared land ensures good germination and reduces weed infestation. You can plant on ridges or on a flat seedbed, the IITA added.
Choosing your seeds
Experts warn that soya bean variety selection should be based on maturity, yield potential, lodging, drought tolerance and resistance to pests and diseases.
John Stephen, a soya bean farmer in Garam, a Niger State community neighbouring the FCT, insisted that the maturity period should be the first consideration when choosing a variety suited to your geographical zone.
Stephen advised that, “Consider varieties that are earlier maturing rather than late maturing in areas with low rainfall. Although later maturity increases the yield potential, it is risky to grow late maturing varieties in drier environments because of late season drought.”
IITA advised farmers to use high quality seeds of the selected variety as soya bean seeds easily lose their viability.
According to the institute, it is common for soya bean, even when stored properly, not to germinate after 12 to 15 months in storage.
“Therefore, use seeds that are not more than 12 months old to ensure good germination. Sort out the good seeds for planting to ensure that they are free from insects, disease infestation and weed seeds. Do not purchase seeds from the open market as the germination potential is not guaranteed. Planting poor quality seeds will not produce a good yield,” the institute advised in the handbook.
Conducting germination test
If possible, IITA recommends seed test before planting.
The institute recommends that the germination rate should be 85 per cent or more to obtain a good stand.
According to IITA, to conduct a quick seed germination test, select 400 seeds randomly and sow 100 seeds each in four wooden or plastic boxes or a prepared 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 complete 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.
IITA advises that a good fertiliser recommendation for soya bean production depends on a good soil test. Under normal conditions, 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 a problem to soya bean in its early growth 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. Avoid 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 effective 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.