IN the last article we discussed soyabean harvesting.
This week we briefly look at a few aspects related to harvesting challenges faced by farmers.
However, we will also take a closer look at soyabean storage and marketing.
In this 2013/14 cropping season, late rains have interfered with the harvesting process in a number of ways.
First the rains have slowed down the drying up of the crop to allow for threshing and combine harvesting.
Even where these operations can be done, farmers must spread out the grain in the open to allow for drying down to a moisture content of 12 percent or less.
Second the rains have encouraged the growth of weeds.
These weeds interfere with both hand and combine harvesting.
The pace of picking and heaping the dry soyabean stems in weed-infested fields is very slow.
The crop might shatter before it is harvested.
Many of the pods also break off the main stem.
Farmers may incur an extra cost of buying and applying chemicals e.g. paraquat (Gramoxone) to ‘burn’ out the green weeds prior to using a combine harvester.
Thirdly the late rains have resulted in severe lodging (falling over) of mature soyabean plants in termite-infested fields where roots have been eaten up.
This now entails engaging labour to pick and heap the plants and feed them into the harvester by hand, again an extra cost.
The termites are following up and eating the lodged plants further reducing yields.
But let us go back to the topic of this week’s article, soyabean storage and aspects of marketing.
The main concern with crop storage has to do with moisture content.
If the moisture is too high, the crop may rot and lose its value.
For soyabeans, it is recommended that a maximum of 12 percent moisture is allowed.
Farmers can have their crop moisture content checked at their local Grain Marketing Board (GMB) depot.
If spread out for a few days in the sun, moisture content will drop rapidly.
A quick check is to drop a handful of the soy grain over a heap.
A sharp crackling sound indicates low moisture while a dull one indicates the beans are too wet.
Soyabeans must not be placed in storage when moisture is too high.
They will turn mouldy and spoil.
The seed contains high oil content which can turn rancid.
Soyabeans may be stored in bags or in bulk bins.
Storage in bags (e.g. 50 kg) allows for drying down where moisture may be a little high after harvest.
Hessian bags that allow good aeration are best soy soyabean to be used as seed. Plastic bags may only be used for temporary storage of soyabeans not meant to be used as planting material.
Before placing soyabean in storage, it must be thoroughly cleaned.
Rotten and split soyabean grains, chaff, weed seeds and dust must be removed by winnowing before long-term storage.
This is particularly important where seed is being kept for planting in the next season.
The skin of soyabean grains is very tough.
Most insect pests cannot break through the skin of an intact soyabean seed.
That is why whole grain soya can be stored safely for several years with little or no insect damage.
Such grain will retain its food and nutrition value and can be processed into various products.
Farmers can keep their soyabeans for as long as they wish before selling or processing them.
But if seed is kept for more than one season, germination can be very poor.
Generally, soyabeans store much better than most crops except perhaps finger millet (rapoko) and pearl millet (mhunga).
No grain protectant (chirindamatura) is required.
What is critical is to remove broken or split beans that are easily attacked by weevils.
Secondly, soyabean must be kept away from moisture, e.g. from a leaking roof or seepage from the floor and walls.
Bagged soyabeans must be placed on a platform of wooden poles laid on the floor of the storeroom.
Storage places must be treated against termites.
Plastic sheeting may then be laid out to prevent contact between the soyabeans and the applied pesticide.
Now we turn to marketing.
There is a general, but wrong perception among farmers that there is no market for soyabeans.
For your information, Zimbabwe has never produced enough soyabeans for local use.
What we have experienced is market failure where farmers are not linked to markets.
Soyabeans are raw material for manufacturing both human and livestock foods.
Small scattered production makes it difficult for farmers to sell their soyabeans. The main markets for soyabeans are the food manufacturing industries. Traditional ones include Olivine, National Foods, Nutresco, Agrifoods, Surface Investments and many others.
The GMB will also be buying soyabean for its Norton stockfeeds plant.
There are several other companies that have gone into the business of processing soyabeans to make for example soya chunks.
These companies often advertise in the newspapers.
l To be continued