Soya-beans are a member of the pea family (Faaceae or Leguminosae), they are native to East Asia where they have been cultivated before 2500BC. Soya beans are considered as one of the most important beans in the world generating a lot of revenue. With the global shift by farmers to the production of cash crops, soya-beans farming has become a lucrative agricultural venture. In order to achieve the much anticipated high yields, there is need to understand the proper crop management practices. Therefore, this guide provides a step by step overview of the appropriate soya-beans farming techniques.

Climate

Climate is an important factor in determining the success of a harvest. The optimal temperature for farming soya-beans is approximately 25oC. None the less, soya-beans prefer different temperature variations in various stages of development. At planting time, the ideal soil temperature for soya-beans farming is 15oC which allows for the germination. Temperatures that are below 15oC are detrimental to soya-beans. This is because low temperatures inhibit flower and seed formation. Temperatures ranging above 30oC also hinder seed development. Soya-beans farming demands adequate rainfall to achieve better yields. Rainfall should be approximately 500mm to 900m of rainfall. Soya-beans possess a long root system that enables them to withstand dry spells prior to flowering. Though they are sensitive to drought when flowering thus need sufficient water supply. Excessive rainfall before or during the flowering stage can put the farmer as risk of luxuriant growth and increased lodging.

Soil Preparation

Soya-beans farming should be practised on well drained fertile soils. Soya-beans are one of the few crops that grow quite well in heavier soils and are better equipped at utilising water at lower soil depths. Soya-beans thrive in soils with a relatively high clay content. Very compact soils are however not recommended as the hypocotyl of soya-beans breaks easily during emergence if under pressure. Although soya-beans are commonly grown on heavy textured fertile land with adequate moisture content, they can also be grown on lighter textured soils. Soya-beans are susceptible to low pH levels that are below 5.3, hence liming should be considered. Soil preparation for soya-beans farming involves convectional tillage and conservation tillage. Convectional tillage is primarily composed of harrowing and digging the soil to an average depth of 15cm to 30cm. The aim is to incorporate and destroy plant debris, exposing soil pests to sunshine for control; breaking down lumps and levelling the ground. Conservation tillage makes use of tillage that leave most of the soil surface covered by crop residues following planting. Crop residues on the soil surface protects soil fertility. When preparing land for planting, make sure the land is free from weeds, excessive sand and weeds. Contours and ridges should be employed if the surface is steep.

Fertilisation

The need for a soil testing during fertilisation cannot be over emphasized. The type as well as the amount of fertiliser needed is determined by soil test results. Soya-beans consume more nutrients than most crops. For this reason, the application of organic fertiliser such as mulch, compost and manure is highly necessary. Crop rotation can also be practiced to improve the health of the soil. It has to be mainly in rotation with maize and wheat and certain other annual crops such as cotton. Inorganic fertilisers can also be added to the soil for maximum yields, provided they are registered. Fertiliser should be placed 10cm to 15cm deep, below or to the side of the seed.

Planting Soya Beans

When farming soya-beans, planting should be done when mean daily temperatures are approximately 15oC to 18oC. The planting date for soya-beans is very critical. This is because early planting encourages excessive vegetative growth without much improvement on fruits. Planting should therefore be done in average to warm weather temperatures that enhance fruit development. Yields in soya-bean increase depending on the amount of light intercepted by the plant. For this reason, it is essential to maintain enough space for light to reach the plants. The average row spacing can be around 40cm to 50cm and 2cm depth in clay soil. Sandy soils require a depth of about 5cm.  Depending on the variety, a population of 250 000 to 400 000 plants/ha is generally recommended.

Weed and Pest Control

Soya-beans farming is often threatened by weeds and pests, hence the need for an effective control mechanisms. Young soya-beans plants are the most susceptible to weed competition. At this stage, seedlings are unable to compete with weeds for water and nutrients. Weeds grow faster thus can easily deprive seedlings of moisture, minerals and light needed for development. For this reason, farmers have to make sure that the ground is cleared of any weeds that can hinder seedling growth. Application of registered herbicides are recommended to control weeds. Another challenge faced in soya-beans farming is the control of pests and diseases. Soya-beans are prone to attack by large false worms, cabbage semi loppers, painted lady, African bollworm and American leaf miner among others. These attack the plants resulting in a rapid decline in yields. Although registered pesticides are highly recommended, it is crucial for farmers to select hardy plant breeds that are resistant to most diseases in the area.

Harvesting Soya Beans

Timely harvesting is of the essence in soya-beans farming. This is because any delays tend to result in heavy losses caused by shattering. Harvesting must be done when plants shed their leaves. Also, the moisture content should fall below 15%. Pods usually shatter when they are ripe, releasing the seeds. Too early or high shattering characteristics are detrimental to achieving quality yield. A successful soya-beans farming venture should produce over 3000t/ha. Soya-beans are harvested by stacking or wind rowing, by hand or through the use of combine harvesters.  Combine harvested are the most recommended due to their efficiency. Soon after the end of the harvesting season, soya-beans are graded removing foreign material and unwanted seeds. The up side of farming soya beans is that they can last a very long time in storage.

Improving soya-beans farming procedures is important in helping farmers to maximise their yield; thus, enabling them meet the growing global demand. Therefore farmers should be encouraged to invest in knowledge and skills for successful soya-beans farming. In addition, interacting with other farmers through various channels is a great way to seek knowhow and acquire relevant skills.