How to Grow Soyabeans in Zimbabwe

Sunday, September 23, 2018


Have you been weighing your crop options for this summer growing season and considering growing soyabeans under the government's Command Agriculture programme, a contract farming arrangement or for your own animal feed?

If you have but are still unsure about how to grow soyabeans well to get a good return on your investment we hope we can show you how in this growing guide.

Some emerging farmers like to refer to soyabeans disparagingly as "sora beans" (weed beans). They consider growing soybeans more daunting than growing maize because of the additional work needed for weed and pest control. They point to the poor yields and comparatively lower prices that they may have experienced and are justifiably hesitant to grow soyabeans.

But that does not need to be the case. With proper planning, good agricultural practices and currently better prices which we discuss below, you should get good returns from growing soyabeans.

So why should you consider growing soybeans? 

There are two main reasons to consider growing soybeans.

First, there is an increased local demand for soya beans to process into soyabean oil and soyabean oilcake. This steadily growing demand for soyabeans is driven by increased population growth, urbanization and expanding intensive livestock production particularly for feed for poultry (broiler chickens) and pigs. The total local soybean production in 2017/2018 was 50,000 metric tons while total annual demand was over 220, 000 metric tons.

The gap in domestic soybean production is currently met by imports of whole soybeans and/or soybean oilcake (soyabean meal) and soyabean oil from South Africa, Zambia and Malawi using scarce foreign currency resources. Oil processors are currently operating below capacity due to domestic soybean supply constraints and limited foreign currency reserves for imports. This represents an opportunity for increased domestic soyabean production to substitute these imports.

Second, the soyabean is an important and strategic crop for crop rotation. It rotates well with winter wheat, cotton maize, sorghum and millet. Crop rotation is very important in farm management because it breaks the cycle of disease, weeds and insects. Soyabeans also have nitrogen-fixing qualities that can help improve the soil fertility of Zimbabwean soils depleted by continuous maize production. This leaves the soil richer for follow up crops.

In this blog post we will cover:
  • Getting to know soybeans
  • Choosing your soybean varieties
  • Land preparation
  • Weed prevention and control
  • Pest and disease prevention and management
  • Harvesting
  • Marketing
Brief History

Soyabeans (also known as soybeans) originated from China. Worldwide soyabean production is now 100 million metric tonnes per year. The major producers of soyabeans in the world are the United States of America, Brazil, Argentina and China. They make up 90% of the soyabean supply in the world.

The earliest record of soyabean production in Zimbabwe was in 1906 though wider production was limited.

The Zimbabwe soyabean industry has been and is currently based on the non-genetically modified soyabean seed varieties. Commercial production of soyabeans is recorded to have started in the 1940s but hectarage, yields and production only reached significance in the 1970s. Most of the production (about 90%) was concentrated on large-scale commercial farms in high rainfall areas.

Production has varied over the years and the crop is still a minor yet important crop. It grew dramatically from a very low base in the 1970s, declined in the early 1980s and early 1990s, rose in the mid-1990s peaking at 140,000 metric tons in 2000. It has continued to vary over the years since driven mainly by land reform, access to finance and drought conditions is some years. Below you can see the trends in Zimbabwe soyabean production by year.

(Graph: Zimbabwe Soyabean Production. source: Index Mundi)
About Soybeans

The soyabean (or soybean) is an annual legume plant that is normally short and bushy. It is classified as an oilseed due to its high oil content (soyabean oilcake at 80% and soyabean oil at 20%) and its use as a source of vegetable oil. It is, however, does not have as high oil content as sunflower (60% meal and 40% oil).

It is a versatile crop with multiple uses for human and livestock consumption. The plant grows best in warm weather in the summer.

The plant can grow in height between 40-100cm depending on the growth habit (determinate or indeterminate).  The flowers are small and can be white, pink or purple.  Soyabeans have extensive roots with nodules. The beans grow in short, hairy pods (2-4 pea sized soybeans).

Below are the soyabean growth stages.

Soyabean Growth Stages:
  • Vegetative Growth Stage
    • VE: Emergence
    • VC: Cotyledon
    • V1: First trifoliate
    • V2: Second trifoliate
    • V3: Third trifoliate
  • Bloom to Pod Development (Reproductive Growth Stage)
    • R1: Beginning flowering
    • R2: Full flowering
    • R3: Beginning pod
    • R4: Full pod
  • Maturity (R5- R8)
    • R5: Beginning Seed
    • R6: Full seed
    • R7: Beginning maturity
    • R8: Full maturity
Choosing your soyabean seed variety

Seed variety selection is a critical decision in farming particularly when growing soyabeans. A common reason for low crop performance is incorrect seed varietal choice.

Making the right decision about which variety of seed to buy and grow is difficult because they are many variables to consider.

 So how to decide?

It helps to first understand soybean variety attributes before deciding which variety to grow. Unfortunately, with government support programs such as Command Agriculture or the Presidential Input Scheme, selecting your preferred seed variety is not always an option.

Factors to consider when selecting your soybean cultivars are yield potential, maturity (early, medium or late), growing habit (determinate or indeterminate), disease resistance, pod clearance, your geographic location (length of your growing season) and lodging.

Understanding the factors that affect variety selection:

Yield: select the highest yield for your region but balance this with other crop management costs.

Disease resistance: understand the occurrence and severity of disease affecting soybeans in your area. Common soybean diseases are rust, frogeye leaf spot and red leaf blotch. Selecting a disease resistant variety helps with maintaining good plant health.

Maturity: Seeds with short maturity periods are suitable for low rainfall areas.  Late maturing varieties are not suitable for dry areas. Suitable seed varieties for:
Middleveld and Highveld area: SC Serenade, SC Squire, SC Saga, SC Safari and SC Santa
Lowveld: Siesta; Sequel

Growth Habit: determinate vs indeterminate.

Determinate: the plants are short and terminate growth with the onset of flowering.  They are suited to warmer environments and may require irrigation.  Examples are SC Status, SC Sequel, SC Sentenel and SC Santa. These are suitable for all areas of Zimbabwe.

Indeterminate: the plants continue to grow vegetatively after flowering and can grow as tall as 70 cm. Examples are SC Serenade, SC Safari, SC Squire and SC Saga. These are suitable for middle and highveld areas of Zimbabwe.

Collect data and as much information as you can on how a seed variety performed in your geographic area to help you with your decision making. Select the seed variety/cultivar that does best meet your needs. Check the SeedCo and Klein Karoo Seed Marketing websites for more information about seed attributes of specific varieties.

Where to get soybean seeds: SeedCo, Pannar, and Klein Karoo Seed Marketing.  Order your preferred seed varieties early to ensure seed availability and to avoid disappointment.

Saved seed: If you plan to use saved seed because that is all you have, make sure it has been well stored and has no damage or mould. Do a germination test by planting a small quantity of the seed to assess viability. You can also apply a seed dressing (fungicide) to the seed and allow it to dry before inoculating it with soybean rhizobia.

Sample Soyabean Activity Calendar (this is just a guideline

Site Selection

Soybeans are a warm-season crop that needs temperatures of between 18 to 30 degrees Celcius although 25 degrees is C is optimal for rapid germination and emergence. Soil temperature at planting needs to be at least 15 degrees C. Soyabeans suffer damage from weather extremes such as excessive heat.

Ideal areas of Zimbabwe for soyabean production are Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland North (Region II). Other ideal areas are parts of Manicaland (Region I & II). Soyabean production is better suited to these regions because of warm temperatures and longer day lengths.

It is important to avoid growing soybeans in the same seedbed year after year. You should rotate your soybeans with other crops such as winter wheat, rice, sorghum, maize or cotton. Avoid planting soyabeans after other legumes (e.g peas, sugar beans and groundnuts) or sunflowers. Research studies have shown that growing wheat after soybeans can help reduce the cost of winter wheat production.

Soil Type

It all starts with the soil.

Soybean requires good soil to get good yields and fewer pests and disease. They do not perform well in poor, sandy soils with the low organic matter. Planting in poor soils with low water holding capacity can result in moisture stress during critical growth stages: germination, flowering and pod filling stages.

Also, avoid planting soyabeans in poorly drained soils that can get waterlogged. Waterlogging is a risk to successful seedling emergence and establishment. Standing water can cause seedling diseases and stunted plant growth. If you do not have good drainage install storm drains and contours. Planting on ridges or hilled rows gives protection against water logging in heavy soils.

Soyabeans prefer loamy, well-drained soils with a soil pH of between 5-7 although 6.5 is an ideal target. This near neutral pH favours the availability of plant nutrients. The soil pH is an indicator of the health of your soil. It is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of the soil. The soil pH affects water transportation, photosynthesis, production and yield. Soybeans are sensitive to soil acidity. (pH less than 5.5)

But how do you know your soil pH and nutrients?

By conducting a soil test in the winter after harvesting your summer crop. Winter is the best time to conduct a soil test to avoid the order rush in the spring/summer and to give you enough time to make your soil amendments. You should still try to do a soil test even if you missed the optimal winter soil testing period.

Your soil analysis results will determine your soil pH and nutrients and provide recommendations for any soil conditioning such as liming. Learn how to correctly collect a sample of your soil for a soil analysis in this guide. Soy testing facilities include Kutsaga Research Board, Zimlabs, AgLabs, Soil Chemistry Department and Fertilizer companies such as Windmill, Omnia and ZFC. The cost of a soil test is about $25 per sample.

If your soil is acidic (pH of less than 5.5) you need to apply lime to adjust the pH to produce soybeans. Without liming your soil your soil may be toxic to your plants. Rhizobia cannot survive in acidic soils.

Liming your soil makes nutrients such as phosphorus available to your plants. It also improves the soil's physical structure. The available options for liming agents in Zimbabwe are dolomitic lime (Magnesium Carbonate) and calcitic lime (Calcium Carbonate).

Aim to apply lime at least 3 to 6 months before planting to give enough time for the lime to dissolve and make adjustments to the soil pH. If you are not able to do it on time, you can still apply lime during planting time by disking or harrowing followed by rolling or mixing it with basal fertilizer during planting. Follow the guidelines from your soil analysis for the correct amount of lime to apply.

Consider applying gypsum pre-planting. Gypsum (calcium sulphate) helps build soil structure and improves soil porosity and tilth. It does not, however, adjust your soil pH but it supplements the soil's calcium and sulphur. It also helps reduce soil crusting that occurs in some soils after planting.

The organic matter in most Zimbabwe soils is often depleted. You can improve your soil's organic matter by applying manure or compost. This will help your soils to retain water better which helps with reducing moisture stress in dry periods.

Land Preparation

Land preparation is critical to good productivity. Poorly prepared land can result in soil erosion, low germination, weed infestation and harvesting losses. Well-prepared soil ensures good germination and reduces weed infestation.

Tillage options for soyabean production are either conventional or conservation tillage.

Conventional tillage produces a seedbed which is firm, deep and fine. The land is ripped, disked and harrowed. If proceeded by wheat the field is disked or chopped before mouldboard plough or chisel plough used. The number of secondary tillage operations depends on the roughness of soil, weed infestation and whether herbicides will be incorporated. Fertilizer application also affects tillage option.

Conservation tillage has been found to be effective for soybean production. Conservation tillage can be done using an ox-drawn ripper, no-till or strip till equipment. The tillage implements leave most of the soil surface covered by crop residues. The advantage of conservation tillage is that the crop residues reduces soil erosion, improves soil structure and improves timelines for production. If you use conservation tillage you need to apply herbicides to control weeds before planting.

Planting Date, Spacing and Density

Planting Date

The date of planting may be one of the most important yield determinants in growing soybeans. It is more critical than for maize. Soyabean plants are sensitive to the length of daylight ( photoperiod). This means that the trigger to start flowering is brought on by the decreasing day length after the summer solstice on 22 December.

The planting date affects the number of days to flowering, the amount of time for plant growth and plant development. Plant early for full-season soybean (4-5 months) and adequate vegetative growth.

The optimum planting dates:
  • Highveld: mid to late November
  • Middleveld: Late November
  • Lowveld: Late November to early December
( Please note that these are mere guidelines. Keep track of the weather forecast as climate change has shifted weather patterns.)

Your seedbed needs to have adequate moisture for planting (sowing). Inadequate moisture at planting can result in failure of seed to germinate. Irrigate your fields to field capacity. Plant when rains are well-established to avoid dry spells post planting.  Plant in the early morning or evening to avoid direct sunlight.

Row spacing

The best results are achieved when soyabeans are planted in rows. The plant spacing ( distance between and within rows) depends on the variety, irrigation and desired plant population. Space seeds 40 - 90cm apart between rows and 5 -15cm between plants in rows.

 Spacing depends on the method of irrigation and seed varieties. A plant population of between 300,000 - 400,000 plants per ha is ideal depending on yield potential and whether the crop is grown under dryland or irrigated. Plant one seed per stand. You need 100kg of seed for a hectare.

Planting Depth

Pay attention to the planting depth. Plant seed 3-5 cm deep but no more than 5cm deep into the moist soil. Your planting depth depends on soil type. Deep planting ( more than 5cm can result in poor stands and challenges in emergence.

If the soil moisture, temperature and planting depth are optimum seed germination occurs within 4-5 days. Excessive moisture delays germination.


Soybeans need Potash (K), Phosphorus (P), Calcium (Ca) and Magnesium (Mg). These are normally added during liming if they are deficient in the soil.

Fertilizer recommendations should be based on annual soil test results. Soy needs phosphorus at planting time which is available through basal fertilizer. Apply basal fertilizer Compound L(Cotton Fert), Soya Blends or Single Super Phosphate (SSP) based on soil analysis results before planting. In the absence of soil test results, the recommended basal fertilizer application rates are between 200-300Kg/ha of Compound L.

Fertilizer should be placed 10 to 15cm below or to the side of the seed. It can also be broadcast or disked into the root zone. Be careful to avoid direct seed and fertilizer contact or it will burn the seed.

Soybeans do not need additional nitrogen (N) if the seed is effectively inoculated at planting time with the correct strain of soyabean nitrogen-fixing rhizobia. Nitrogen-fixing bacteria (Rhizobium) form the round nodules commonly seen on soybean roots. Most Zimbabwean soils lack this bacteria. Nitrogen should only be added if plants fail to nodulate.

 It is important to apply Rhizobium inoculant to your soyabean seed before planting. Rhizobium helps nitrogen fixation to occur. You need one packet of Rhizobium inoculant for 100kg of seed. (store it in a cool place like a fridge but not in the freezer)

Methods of inoculating seed with rhizobium vary. Here is one common method of inoculating seed:

Steps for Inoculating Soyabean Seed:
  • Find a shady place to inoculate seed. 
  • Mix 100g of inoculant and 1 litre of water in a clean bucket
  • Add 50g of brown sugar (or white sugar) into the solution, the sugar acts as an adhesive
  • Stir the solution for 30 seconds
  • Sprinkle the inoculant mix onto the seed. Turn the seed gently to ensure all seeds are fully coated with the inoculant
  • Protect the inoculated seed from direct sunlight by covering the container with a paper or cloth. Sunlight will make inoculant ineffective.
  • Plant the inoculated seed into the moist soil on the same day immediately after inoculation. 
Where to buy Rhizobium:
  • Rhizobium Inoculant Factory, Grassland Research, Marondera
  • Chemicals and Soil Research Institute of the Department of Research and Specialist Services (DRSS): 
  • Seed companies such as SeedCo
Where to buy fertilizers: Windmill, ZFC, SuperFert, Omnia and other suppliers.

Weed Control

Some emerging farmers like to call soyabeans "sora beans" (weed beans) because of the perceived challenge of controlling weeds. This does not need to be the case with careful planning and good weed management.

Work to keep your fields weed-free especially at planting time. Young seedlings are most challenged because they do not compete well with weeds. Weeds compete with soybeans for moisture, light and nutrients during the first six weeks of growth.  Effective weed control during the first six weeks is critical for good yields. Uncontrolled weeds can cost you in reduced yields, increased management costs and harvesting delays.

Controlling weeds can be done either manually or chemically. It is important to understand the weed varieties in your fields to help determine the best method to control them.

Manual weeding: do your first weeding at 2 weeks and the second weeding at 5-6 weeks post planting. If the plants are growing well and a canopy is established the second weeding may not be necessary.

Chemical weeding: can be done pre-emergence or post-emergence using herbicides. Choosing a herbicide depends on weed problem, soil conditions and herbicide availability. It is important to have a crop calendar to time your herbicide application effectively.

It is important to wear protective clothing such as overalls, gloves and boots when applying herbicides and to follow the label directions closely to apply the proper rates. Purchase your own appropriate spraying equipment such as a knapsack sprayer or use a boom sprayer to apply your herbicides in a timely manner. Most herbicides need adequate moisture to be effective.

Example of soyabean herbicides:

Pre-emergence herbicides: Dual Magnum (Metachlor), Sencor 480 SC (Triazine), Lasso (Alachor), Frontier Optima, Prowl, Authority, Bateleur Gold
Post-emergence herbicides: Fusilade, Classic, Basagram, Focus Ultra, Pursuit, Gallo

Select the appropriate herbicide that is least toxic to humans and the environment. Keep records of previously applied herbicides (such as atrazine residues from continuous maize production) to avoid herbicide damage.

Summary of methods for controlling weeds:
  • Plan weed control strategies well before planting
  • Apply herbicides at the right time
  • Practice crop rotation
  • Prepare a good seedbed 
  • Select a field with a history of low weed pressure
  • Timely weed cultivation
Watering/ Irrigation

Soyabeans will get high yields when they are free of moisture stress throughout the growing season. Ideal rainfall for good yields is above 450 mm. Water use varies based on the stage of growth and weather conditions.

The critical phases of watering for a soybean crop are germination, flowering and pod formation. Moisture stress during these critical phases of growth can result in yield loss. Providing adequate water in the pod filling stage can improve yields. Soybeans require less water in the late reproductive stages.

Applying substantial pre-planting irrigation is recommended to encourage germination, emergence and early growth. Soybeans need adequate moisture levels and warm temperatures to germinate rapidly. Once crops are established they tolerate minor moisture stress without significant yield loss in the vegetative stages. However, maintaining good moisture will help maximise yields.

Maximised yields are usually realized by using irrigation, especially in low rainfall areas. Irrigation can, however, increase production costs. Choose your method of irrigation based on water availability, type of cultivar, affordability and available equipment. The best irrigation methods are overhead (sprinkler or centre pivot) and drip irrigation. It is possible to practice dryland farming of soyabeans in high rainfall areas.

Keep water availability up until 50% of pods have reached physiological maturity (yellowing pods and leaf drop.)Watering intensity is usually tapered off towards the end of the crops' growth. You can use a soil moisture monitoring system such as a tensiometer to monitor water requirements especially in the later stages of growth.

Pests and Disease Management

It is important to scout your fields regularly throughout the growing season. Pest monitoring should be done weekly and then twice a week from flowering on. The best time to check crops is in the morning (between 7am -9am) when insects are most active.

Get to know the common pests in your area. You can talk to your Agritex officer or other farmers in your area. Some of the common pests in Zimbabwe are aphids, green stink bug, cutworms, and snout beetle.

Common Diseases

There are a number of diseases that affect soybeans. Their presence and ability to infect your plants depends on the environment (moisture and temperature), the presence of pathogens and the susceptibility of the variety to pathogens. Some diseases can reduce yields by between 10-30%.

Develop a scouting plan to monitor field conditions throughout the entire growing season. Most common symptoms are observed first on leaves, then possibly stems and pods. Take a random walk in the field and stop at multiple locations to look at damaged leaves, insect infestation, weed and nutrient deficiencies.

Learn to recognize and scout for Septona brown spot, frogeye leaf spot and Cercospora leaf blight. If disease pressure remains high, apply fungicide application but preferably under expert guidance.

Fungal Diseases

Soybean Rust

Symptoms: infected leaves have small tan dark brown or reddish brown lesions. From lesions, small raised pustules or bumps can occur on the lower surface of the leaves. Severe infection can lead to premature defoliation and cause high yield losses.
Conditions: It is spread by wind.
Control: There are not currently any resistant cultivars. Early detection is key. Follow with use of fungicides such as Folicure at first appearance to reduce damage.

Downy Mildew

Symptoms: yellowish green spots (lesions) with undefined margin appear under the leaf surface. The lower surface has greyish tufts. Severely infected leaves die and fall off.
Conditions: survives between crops in infected crop residues or on seed. Development of disease is favoured by cool, moist weather and narrow row spacing.
Control: plant disease-free and resistant varieties, rotate crops and clear tillage.

Damping Off and Anthracnose:

Symptoms: Seed-borne diseases caused by several fungi. The infected pools or stems at first show irregularly shaped, reddish brown or dark brown area that is later covered by tiny black spines. the diseases cause rotting of seeds before emergence from soil or death of seedlings after emergence. When seeds emerge from the soil, they are often brown, sunken cankers on leaves which can be covered by pink spores in moist weather.
Conditions: Favours by cool weather.

Frogeye Leaf Spot (Cercospora Sojina)

Symptoms: consist of brown circular or irregular spots with narrow reddish brown margins on the lead surfaces. When mature seeds are infected, lesions can develop on stems and pods. Infected seeds may show dark grey or brown discolouration in small specks to large blotches.
Conditions: The fungus survives in infected crop residues and in infected seeds.
Control: tillage and crop rotation are effective means of reducing the population from season to season. Consider a resistant variety if the field has a history of the disease.

Red Leaf Blotch

Symptoms: in the first stage of the disease, lesions appear on the unifoliate leaves associated with the primary leaf vein. At this point, the disease is easily confused with other diseases or cultural conditions affecting soybeans. Later, dark red spots with reddish brown and dark borders on the lower leaf surfaces develop on trifoliate leaves.

Bacterial Diseases

Bacterial Blight

Symptoms: when plants are infected early in the season they may be stunted and dies. Symptoms in the later stages consist of angular lesions which begin as small water-soaked yellow to light brown spots on the leaves. The centres of the spots will turn a dark, reddish brown to block or dry out. Eventually, lesions fall out of the leaf. The disease spread in windy rainstorms and during cultivation while the foliage is wet.
Conditions: The bacteria is carried over in crop debris and infected seeds.
Control: crop rotation, allow crop residue to break down.


Symptoms: light brown necrotic spots of variable sizes, surrounded by broad yellow halos on the leaves. In damp weather, the spots enlarge forming large dead areas on the leaf. Wildfire disease is commonly associated with bacterial blight. The bacteria causing wildfire are seed-borne and also carried over in crop debris.

Sclerotinia Stem Rot or White mould:

Symptoms: plants die down after bloom with leaves remaining attached. A white cottony mould forms in the foliage and lower leaves.
Conditions: cooler than normal temperature, high humidity. White mould fungus survives between crops as sclerotia.
Control: crop rotation

Cercospora Purple Seed Stain and Leaf Blight: 

Symptoms: soybean seed, pods, leaves and stems are all affected by the disease. The most easily distinguished symptom is pink to purple discolouration.
Control: disease-free seed, crop rotation, clean plough down of infected crops, application of certain foliar fungicides will help with certain phases.

Viral diseases

These can be transmitted through aphids, beetles and whiteflies. Most viral diseases result in foliar symptoms such as mosaic or mottling, thickening of older leaves. puckering, leaf distortion, a severe reduction in leaf size and stunting.

Common Insects

Beneficial insects keep insect populations below economically damaging levels. Sometimes severe outbreaks occur making control necessary.

Soybean plants can tolerate some damage to leaves particularly before flowering but direct damage to pods or heavy defoliation (leaf loss) post flowering can result in yield losses.

It is important to become familiar with the common types of insects and types of damage at different parts of the growing season.

Spider Mite

Minute red, black or brown arachnids that attack plants. Treatments applied too early may damage beneficial insects.
Conditions: dry, hot conditions encourage mites
Control: Pyrethrum paralyzes mites.

Soybean aphids

During the flowering stage plan to monitor symptoms such as stunted growth and fewer pods. They are a vector in a number of viruses
Conditions: occur sporadically during warm, dry periods.
Control: avoid water stress to your plants. Beneficial insects may control aphids. Chemical control: use registered insecticides.

Green stink bugs

This is a flattened, shield-shaped bug that is bright green in colour. It feeds on pods using its piercing-sucking mouthpart causing pod damage.


Larvae are usually dark grey to brown with a smooth, wavy appearance and are found 20-50mm under the soil.
Control: chemically using synthetic pyrethroids

Soybean Cyst Nematodes:

Symptoms: severely infected plants are stunted and yellow. Yellowing resembles potash or nitrogen deficiency.
Conditions: things like equipment that move the soil move nematodes. The disease favours low potash fertility. It is most severe in sandy soils. Continuous soybean production ( 2 years in a row) also induces nematodes.
Control: Crop rotation, using resistant cultivars and rotating with a non-host crop

Semi loopers

 Larvae are blue-green and are up to 40mm in length. Larvae forage on leaves

False wireworms

Creamy white and head appear reddish brown because of bristles. Larvae feed on seed, developing seedlings and stems of seedlings.

Integrate Pest and Disease Control:
  • Talk with your Agritex officer or a representative of a chemical company for help developing a spraying program
  • Scout fields weekly to detect and collect samples to understand current economic thresholds and correctly identify insect or disease. Apply pesticides as a last resort and only if pest pressure meets economic thresholds. 
  • Select disease resistant varieties: most efficient and economical
  • Apply fungicide seed dressing such as Thiram or Captan to  protect seed against soilborne diseases such as damping off 
  • Rotate crops with non-legumes to avoid build-up of disease. You can use crop rotation control pod and stem blight, powdery mildew, bacterial blight
  • Practice clean tillage and proper soil preparation
  • Plant disease-free, high-quality seed: plump seed, disease-free organisms and no cracks. 
  • Maintain soil fertility: maintain adequate balanced soil fertility to help reduce yield losses
  • Plant in a good seedbed and avoid poorly drained or compacted soil
  • Uproot and destroy diseased plants
  • Follow directions when applying chemicals and wear protective clothing.
Where to get herbicides/chemicals: ZFC, Windmill, Agricura

Harvesting & Post-Harvest

Weeds should be addressed prior to harvesting to avoid harvesting delays. On time harvesting requires careful planning to get the labour or harvesting equipment ready and available when crops are ready.

Harvest soybeans when they reach a moisture content of 13-15% as lower moisture levels can lead to pod shattering and cracking seeds. Plants are usually ready for harvesting 10 days after physiological maturity. Check the moisture content for harvest readiness.

Harvest early in the morning when temperatures are low to avoid shattering. Do not harvest on a rainy day, wait until the rain stops to avoid losses.

Hand harvesting: is suitable for small acreage and requires a large labour force. Cut the mature plants at ground level using a cutlass, hoe or sickle, then thresh and clean. Do not pull plants by the roots.

Mechanical harvesting: using a combine harvester is important for large hectarages of at least 50 hectares. Combine harvesting is faster than hand harvesting but does require expertise in combine operations to reduce harvest losses. The degree of loss depends on the efficiency of the operator and machine, evenness of land, the height of pods, lodging, moisture content and weeds. This is the most costly operation in soybean production.

Dry, sort and storage:

Drying: You can dry soyabeans using drying systems (e.g. drying fans) used for maize or to sun dry to reduce excess moisture.

Sun drying: place newly harvested plants on a mat, plastic sheet, tarpaulin or raised platform and protect from rain and animals. Dry for 2 sunny days protected from rain and animals. Test the grain for dryness by biting. It should break or crack not bend.

Threshing: Thresh gently on a clean surface when plants are dry. You can manually or mechanically thresh soybean. To manually thresh the plants place them on a clean tarpaulin or in a sack and then beat the plants with a stick but be gentle to avoid damaging them.

Clean the grain: Winnow to remove chaff, dust or other foreign objects to avoid storage problems. Remove shrivelled, diseased, broken grains or grains from other varieties. This can help with getting premium prices.

Place in clean bags. Treat grain before storage to control storage pests or you can use PICS bags (airtight bags that do not require chemicals).

You can also store the dry grains in silos or bulk containers. They must have a moisture content of 13% or less although 10% is ideal for storage. Keep the storage room cool.

Yields and Profitability

Soyabean yields in Zimbabwe among emerging farmers have generally been low and ranged from 0.5 - 2.5t/ha. Higher yields ( 3.5t/ha or more) are achievable under optimum conditions. Good crop yields require good weed and insect control and water management. Gross margins are affected by the price per tonne and yield per hectare. You can calculate the gross margins at various prices and yields to get an idea of your potential gross margins. This can help you determine how it compares to the other summer crops you may be considering. It can also help you determine if it will be adequate to cover your input costs.


They are multiple buyers and uses for soybeans. Soyabeans are used for food, feed and other industrial uses. You can grow soybeans under contract or sell at harvest. To sell at harvest it is important to understand the target price and understand the buying requirements e.g. moisture content.

Keep abreast of pricing information. Sources of pricing information for soybean prices are ZFU Pricing Guide and the Agricultural Marketing Authority. Sell when your price objective has been met.

The main buyer of soybeans locally is the Grain Marketing Board (GMB). It offers a subsidized price (higher than world commodity price) to provide a financial incentive to encourage the domestic production of soyabeans.  Other buyers are oil processors, feed processors and brokers.

Profitability depends on costs per hectare, yields and price. Farmers with low yields may fail to break even or make a profit. Increasing your profit margins requires that you use good agricultural practices to increase yields.

The gazetted target market price for soyabeans for the 2017/2018 marketing season was $610/tonne.


Soyabeans are processed into soybean oil and soybean oilcake.

Raw soybeans are delivered to an oil processing company such as Surface Investments, Olivine Industries and United Refineries Limited to be crushed into oil (a key ingredient in many foods for human consumption.) Soyabean oil processing is used for products like cooking oil, margarine and salad dressing.

The by-product of soyabean oil crushing is soybean oilcake (soyabean meal). This is a very high protein ingredient for livestock feed. There is an increasing demand for oilcake due to increased local livestock production particularly poultry and pork.

The aquaculture (fish) industry, particularly in Lake Kariba, is also a growing industry that offers the potential for absorbing more domestic soybeans.  Soybean protein has the capability of replacing most of the required fish meal

A small portion of the soyabean oilcake (soyabean meal) is used to make soy flour. Soy flour is used in the baking industry.

The vegetative portions of the soyabean plants can be used for silage, hay, pasture, fodder for grazing and can be ploughed back into the soil as green manure.

Soyabean Budget ( 1 ha)

It can cost between $700- $900 per hectare to grow soyabeans. This does not include costs such as rates, insurance and interest.

These variable costs per hectare include:

Seed (100kg)
Seed dressing ( 1packet)
Fertilizer : (SSP or Compound L)(200-300kg)
Lime (300kg)
Insecticides & Fungicides
Tractor services
Combine Hire

If you are a livestock producer growing soyabeans can help you reduce your livestock feed costs. Feed costs are a major cost of livestock production. With increased funding options under Command Agriculture and other contracting arrangements, there is now some funding available to grow soy which has been a challenge in recent years. The targeted market price for soyabeans has also improved making growing soyabeans a viable option compared to other competing summer crops such as cotton, maize and tobacco. The key to making growing soyabeans worthwhile is by applying the good agricultural practices described above to get the yields required to make the crop profitable based on prevailing prices.

Disclaimer: while Emerging Farmer does everything to ensure the accuracy of our guides, it is important to contact an agronomist or your Agritex officer for accurate recommendations for your farm. Emerging farmer takes no responsibility for any losses or damage incurred due to information in this guide.


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