Soya bean: Strategic, profitable crop

19 Jul, 2019 - 00:07 0 Views

eBusiness Weekly

Dr John Basera

Increased soya bean production is necessary to meet an increasing domestic and global demand. Soya bean is one of the most common crops with multiple benefits to the farmer, the industry and the economy.

However, current demand for soya bean in Zimbabwe far outstrips supply, opening opportunities for farmers and the industry to plug in the disparities.

This is only a Gross Margin Budget Guide and is based on industrial average prices and only applies to commercial soya bean production. Farmers should use figures relevant for their circumstances. Improve yields and contain costs below $1 100/ha to maintain a health value wedge/margin!!

Soya bean crop is used as an affordable source of protein for livestock feeds. It is also used in making cooking oil, margarine, soya chunks, soap, milk to name a few major uses.

Soya bean is one of the richest crops in terms of crude protein (ranging between 35-45 percent) and contains 20 percent oil. The crop contributes significantly to food security in Zimbabwe and it is therefore strategic to attain some level of autarky (or self-sufficiency) with regards to soya bean supply.

The country requires about 220 000 tonnes of soya bean annually for oil, feed and other industrial needs.

At farm level, it is one of the short season crops with a lucrative return on investment. In general, a cost structure of up to
$1 000/ha, absorbs all necessary variable costs for high management levels. At this level a farmer will be targeting to get at least 3,5 tonnes/ha and even up to 5,5 tonnes/ha, with Seed Co varieties.

It means a farmer can rake in at least $2 700 at the current rolling price of $780/tonne, assuming a 3,5 tonne/ha yield level is achieved.

The more the yield per unit area, the better and healthier. Farmers should take advantage of the $780/tonne soya bean price and hit the gold. Margin-wise a farmer can realise at least $1 700/ha and more with increased productivity levels.

The break-even yield level for soya bean is about 1,3 tonnes/ha at the prevailing price of $780/tonne, assuming costs are contained below $1 000. A farmer can easily rake in at least $2 and more with increased productivity, per dollar invested.

It is quite compelling that productivity level must be right, for soya bean to be a profitable. If a farmer can get productivity right, then s/he is on the right track to get everything else right.

Other benefits of soya bean crop

  • In addition to being profitable, the soya bean crop is also compatible with long and short rotations, making it a key component in cropping systems.

Example of a long rotation is maize (summer) soya bean (summer) which is common in many non-irrigated farming systems.

Soya (summer) — wheat (winter) is an example of a short rotation (also known as double cropping system) in irrigated farming systems. Both rotation scenarios are beneficial to the farmer.

  • Generally, the yield of a cereal crop which follows soya in a rotation is usually enhanced because of the residual nitrogen, since soya bean is a legume which fixes Nitrogen.

A well-managed soya bean crop can leave a residual Nitrogen level of up to 90kg/ha, which benefits the next crop in a rotation.

In rotations, the yield of maize/wheat following soya beans is generally greater than following maize at both low and high levels of nitrogen application.

  • The benefits from growing soya bean prior to maize also includes better moisture conservation due to the early maturity of soya bean and the canopy cover. In Zimbabwe, soya bean varieties are generally early to medium maturing (115 to 135 days from planting to physiological maturity)
  • The soya bean crop can be used in the control of certain weeds, pests and diseases, especially in rotation systems with cereal crops. Crop rotations, as a cultural practice are the first port in Integrated Management of weeds, pests and diseases in most cropping systems.
  • A soya bean crop can help the spread of peak work periods and early cash return in April or May and enhance farm cash flows.
  • Soya bean rotate particularly well with winter-irrigated wheat, as it takes less time in the fields even when planted in November or early December.

Parting shots

As we prepare for the 2018/19 season, let us keep in mind the soya bean yield determinants which include soil conditioning, land preparations, fertilisation and inoculation, time of planting, varietal choice, population density management, disease, weed and pest control and irrigation. Refer to Seed Co Farmers Guide for more on soya bean Production. Soya bean is indeed a lucrative crop to the farmer and strategic to the nation. Lets grow soya bean!


John Basera is Seed Co Agronomy and Extension Services Manager. He can be contacted on +263 772 413 184/ [email protected] Contact: +263 772 413 184 

Email: [email protected]


Twitter: @basera_john or @SeedCoGroup

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