Is there any effort to improve on soybean seed?
Yes. You know, the cultivation of soybean in the State has increased. This is because it is a major food as well as a cash crop since it is widely used in the food and feed industry. Deliberate effort is ongoing to improve the productivity of the crop in the area through the use of high yielding and rust resistance varieties. A number of improved high-yielding and disease resistance soybean cultivars have been developed but these have not reached many farmers. In the light of this, the University of Agriculture Makurdi is collaborating with the International Institute of Agriculture (IITA) on soybeans seed systems and delivery funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to improve the lives and livelihoods of smallholder farmers in the drought-prone areas of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and South Asia (SA) through improved productivity and production of soybeans. The project has introduced and disseminated four new varieties of improved soybeans for use by farmers with concomitant large-scale replacement of the old varieties. Most of the varieties cultivated in the State are the old variety released in the 1980s. There are new varieties that are high yielding and rust resistant varieties. Seeds of the new improved varieties are being promoted among farmers to improve the productivity of the crop in the area. Awareness creation has been effected through field days and demonstrations (farmers’ testing of the improved varieties). Adoption of new varieties of soybeans will substantially increase yields, as well as increase food security and reduction in poverty.
What is the major diseases affecting soybean production?
Rust caused by Phakospsors pachyrhizi is the major disease of soybean. It is a common foliar disease in Nigeria which threatens soybean production and this disease has been reported in the State. We are collaborating with IITA to disseminated rust resistance varieties to farmers in areas where the disease is a problem. IITA in partnership with the national programs have developed rust resistant soybeans cultivars such as TGX 1987-62F and TGX 1987- 62. In area where rust is a problem, we encourage farmers to use the improved cultivars.
What benefits are there to derive from the production of soybeans?
Soybeans is an industrial crop and has diverse domestic usage. The seeds contain about 20 percent oil on a dry matter bases, and this is 85 percent unsaturated and cholesterol-free which, has made it a prime source of vegetable oil in the international market. Soybeans is also a nutritive crop that has an average protein content of 40 percent more protein-rich than any of the common vegetable or animal food sources. It is widely used in the food and feed industry. It has high protein content over 35 percent. In fact, it is called a miracle crop. Soybean growers earn a lot of cash from its production. Benue state is one of the leading producers of soybeans in Nigeria. For domestic usage; soybean has several uses; it can be used as food, nursing mothers can use it to wean their infants, we train farmers on how to process soybeans seed for household use to fortify carbohydrate food so that they can increase the protein content of their diet. Several recipes can be derived from soybeans seed which include; soy milk, soy oil and so on. Soybeans by-products which is the cake is also used for livestock feed. The rapid growth in the poultry sector has also increased demand for soybean meal in Nigeria. So you can see that soybean production has a lot of benefits. . Soybean farmers earn substantial cash from it because the crop can be successfully grown using low agricultural input (low production cost)
What method do you intend to adopt in order to sustain Benue state as the highest producer of soybean in Nigeria?
One way is to encourage farmers and the youth to go back to farming and make it a business. The project is working with farmers through Community Based Organization (CBOs) in four local government areas in the State; we disseminate improved high yielding seeds to interested youth and also train them on the improved management practices.
Many of the youth have taken up this challenge and already deriving high returns from the sales of soybeans seed/grain. Farmers’ problems relating to access to improve seed and low soil fertility are being resolved. Problems of input availability especially fertilizer is also being addressed by the Federal Government robust policy on fertilizer issue. Another area that will sustain soybean production in the State is ‘Improved market linkage’. Improved market linkage will encourage seed producers to improve and increase seed production to supply a growing market.
The project has demonstrated that Market development for soybeans resulted in increased production and sales of soybeans making significant contribution to improving livelihood and poverty reduction. The project has been able to link soybean farmers to market for the sales of their produce with good prices because if producers don’t get market for their produce, they will be discouraged from production.
Some of the soybeans processor that farmers have been linked to includes the KAMA foods industry which has the capacity to absorb over 750,000 metric tons of soybeans annually. A stakeholders’ workshop on this linkage was held sometime in 2011 at Benue Hotel. Farmers are no longer afraid to produce soybeans because they know there is ready market for their produce. Apart from the production, farmers especially women are also trained on soybean processing and utilization and they are also deriving income from the sales of soybean products.
Has the level of research on improved soybeans reached its full circle?
Research is a continuous one because new problems emerge as agriculture activities intensified. For now most of the problems militating against soybeans production and productivity are adequately being addressed through innovative research. For now, we are working in four Local Government Areas of Benue State in collaboration with the Benue state Rural Development Program (BARNDA).
Do farmers really need a large space of land considering the high yielding improved varieties?
We look at it in two ways; a small scale farmer who has small land holding (a quarter of hectare), medium scale farmer who needs probably two hectares while another group may need up to five hectares. But we are talking about increase productivity per unit area. Depending on your capability in terms of land expansion, our goal is high productivity under intensive production and not the other way round.
If you are able to acquire large area of land and increase your production and make more money, good. Take for example, one of the youth farmers in ‘Ucha’ village a neighboring community to the University that worked with us last year cultivated one hectare of land and got 22 bags of soybeans. This year he is aiming to cultivate two hectare to make more money.