Smallholder soybean farmers’ incomes in Africa may increase by 53 percent if they adopt the right agricultural practices of the new soybean varieties discovered through research conducted by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
The research was conducted on some farms in the south-eastern part of Africa, Malawi, the adopted new species and plant practices which was meticulously followed resulted to about 61 percent grain yield and farmers who adopted the method had 53 percent gain on their incomes.
This implies that soybean production in African could be ramped up from the current annual production of 1.5 million metric tonnes.
Also, improved production of the grain was recorded by breeding and releasing over 15 varieties in the last 19 years through national and international researchers.
However, Malawi largely cultivates maize than soybean and with this new varieties discovered it could ramp up the country’s annual soybean production from 0.98 tonnes per hectare.
Adane Hirpa Turfa, a crop scientist with IITA said that more farmers can benefit from this breakthrough if they have unrestricted access to information on the new varieties available.
“With only 34% of the sampled farmers being adopters, more awareness is needed if more farmers are to benefit from improved technologies,” said Turfa.
Also, the new varieties are high yielding, with a shorter maturity period, more pods per plant and perform better under poor and erratic rainfall.
Better agronomic practices such as the right planting dates, close row spacing that can smother weeds, and correct and timely application of phosphorus fertilizers have also been popularized through projects such as “Putting Nitrogen Fixation to Work for Smallholder Farmers in Africa (N2Africa).”
Moreover, Nigeria as the largest producer of soybean in sub-Saharan Africa is being faced with lots of production constraints such as constant shortage of fertilizers for farmers, poor storage facilities as well as untapped economic opportunities in the soybean value chain.
In most Northern states in the country such as Kaduna, Kano and Benue where soybean is largely cultivated, farmers do not have access to hygienic storage facilities to store the grain as they wait for the right period of the year for sale.
Multinational companies such as Nestle often rejects the harvested grain from these farmers because they failed to meet the required storage practices.
However, studies have shown that soybean enhances soil fertility by adding nitrogen into the soil for improved yields and better harvests.
Similarly, smallholder farmers in Malawi are already taking advantage of the soybean soil nutrient potency by intercropping it maize with it thereby yielding more grains from both crops.
Turfa, further conducted studies to know farmers’ commitment to the agricultural practices of the grain and discovered that a third of the farmers involved in the study actually carried out the practices.
“We studied 1,237 farmers on 1,465 plots and found that over a third of sampled farmers adopted the new varieties and practices which resulted in 61% yield gain and 53% income gain,” Turfa said.
She hinted that the majority of the smallholder farmers who participated were members of a farmers’ organization who participated in seed markets and have access to extension services and that has increased their knowledge in the process.