Let’s start with some numbers. On average most Zambian farmers harvest between 2-tons to 4-tons of soya beans per hectare. ie 2000kg to 4000kg per hectare. The total production cost per hectare is approximately K4000 to K6000. Therefore, if a 50kg bag is selling for about k350 – k600 and if you had a 2-ton yield per hectare, you would make approximately between K14000-K24000 per hectare including production costs. Now that you know the average earning potential and have decided to still grow soya beans, then you can read on for details of how to grow the crop. Please note that prices are subject to change.
Land preparation and seed selection
There are different methods you can use to prepare the land. Mechanical involves ploughing with a tractor and harrowing. The manual method involves using a hoe to manually clear the land. You can also use animal ploughs to prepare the land. However, it’s important that you don’t over tilling the land. Tillage breaks the earth’s surface which can subject the soil to erosion because of the loosened structure. In fact, tillage is not a requirement for high yields in soybean production.
There are a variety of soya bean seeds you can grow. Different varieties have different characteristics, such as lodging, maturity, yield potential, and disease resistance. Whichever variety you choose, ensure the seeds are clean, free from debris and impurities, and are not damaged. For better results, use certified seeds. Some recommended certified seed varieties include Safari, Kafue, Dina, Spike, and Lukanga. You need about 100kg of seed per hectare with a 25kg bag of certified seed costing approximately K600.
Note: *If you choose to use recycled seeds, try to conduct a germination test. Plant about 50 seeds at least 10 days before your planting day. This way you’ll be able to see how many of them will germinate. Counting your germinated seeds will help decide if your seeds are good enough for planting, if you need to plant more seeds, or if you need to change your seeds. if 40 germinate, use 2-3 seeds per hole. If about 35 germinate, plant more than 3 seeds per hole. If less than 30 germinate, get new seeds.
The next step is to innoculate your soybean seeds. This is a crucial step that needs to be taken seriously in soya beans production if you want to have a good yield. The inoculant helps the plant synthesize all its nitrogen. It lives in the root of the plant, forms the nodules, takes the atmospheric nitrogen, and converts it to nitrates that can be used by the plant. Inoculant is applied before planting. Follow the instructions on the label on how to apply it to the seed. A sachet of inoculant costs about K70 per 120g sachet. You’ll need two sachets per 100kg of seed.
Planting Soya beans
Plant your soybeans within the month of December. Delayed planting can lead to a lower yield, while very early planting may lead to poor seedling establishment. You can either plant in ridges or on flatland. Spacing should be 30-35cm between lines and 5cm between plants. Plant your seeds 2.5cm deep.
Fertilizer for soya beans is predominantly phosphate. You don’t need nitrogen especially if you’ve innoculated the soybeans. Place your fertilizer 2.5cm away from the plant (you planted 5cm apart so that’s in the middle). The fertilizer should be placed in one spot between every two planting holes and cover. It is important to add fertilizer at the time of planting. You can use two 50kg bags of fertilizer per hectare. Each bag costs approximately K600. You can apply a one-liter booster per hectare after 30 days costing K120.
You might also like: Frequently asked questions about soya beans farming
Weeds are any undesirable plants growing in your field and will compete with your soybeans for nutrients. Whether you do it manually or with chemicals, ensure that your field is free of weeds. If you use a good herbicide, it will be effective enough to keep your field free from weeds for the entire growing period and there will be no competition for your crop. Herbicides, if used properly, are a safe and eﬀective method to control certain weeds.
It’s important to spray herbicides at the time of planting or before germination. These herbicides will cost about K400 per hectare. Another herbicide costing K250 needs to be sprayed before crop canopy.
Soya beans mature at 90 – 100 days. At this time it’s ready to be pulled out of the field. Soybeans should be harvested as soon as it matures to avoid loss of yield through shattering. When fully mature, at least 50% of the leaves should have fallen off the plant. The colour of pods for most varieties will change from green to golden yellow. If you have 8 out of 10 pods turn yellow, then your crop is ready for harvest. You will also notice that the seeds rattle when shaken. Furthermore, you can test the moisture level of the grain. It should be between 12- 14%.
Note: Avoid uprooting the entire soybean plant. Rather cut the plant so that you can retain the nitrogen present in the roots in the soil.
Labour costs haven’t been included in this article.