Soybean farmers, especially in Benue State are still contending with low yield following challenges militating against the production of the 'miracle' crop in the state.
Some of the farmers, who spoke to our correspondent in Makurdi, however, claimed that their 2018 production output was far better than that of 2017, when they recorded insect attacks on their farms and non-accessibility of high yielding seed varieties.
For Vitalis Tarnongu, one of the soybean farmers, "last year's harvest was better compared to 2017. The average yield was 1.8 ton per hectare. The greatest challenge we (farmers) faced was insect attack and post-harvest handling as there were no reapers so harvesting was mostly manual."
These problems, according to Tarnongu, a big time soybean farmer, had become consistent over the years and until adequate attention is paid to the sector, there could be possible shortage in production.
But Prof. Lucky Omoigui, a plant breeder at the College of Agronomy in the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi (FUAM) in an interview with our correspondent in Makurdi, suggested ways by which farmers can check the problem of low yield.
According to the agronomist, over the years, soybean production had expanded because of the rapid growth in the industrial sector that require soybean, noting that the produce is a major cash crop and widely used in the food and feed industry.
But he added that the decline is also grave and could be attributed to low competitive price for farmers as some of them complained that there was no market for soybean; while another factor for the decline was the effect of climate change in some areas where there was terminal drought.
The plant breeder explained also that in areas where rainfall cannot sustain long duration soybean varieties, there was need for the early maturing varieties to be made available and as such farmers have to be introduced to high yielding varieties because most of them still used the old varieties developed over 20 years ago such that where terminal drought sets in, it often leads to poor harvest because most of the old varieties have long maturity period.
Omoigui posited that soybean production should not be on expansion on land area alone but on productivity per unit area. He disclosed that based on his record from on-farm evaluation of soybean in four local government areas of Benue State, most of the new varieties introduced by the university and planted on average farmers' fields production was 2.5 tons/ha.
"We have to identify, recommend suitable soybean varieties that have good adaptation and high yield in a particular ecological zone rather than recommending one variety across all ecological zones," the plant breeder stated.
Another farmer, Ayati Ahangba, who shared his experience with Daily Trust, disclosed that his soybean farm is located in Ukum Local Government Area but has not been doing well over the years.
"I wouldn't know whether it is the soil. I tried high yielding seeds but the result was poor," he said.
Meanwhile, Tarnongu has said that planting soybean would commence in July, this year to mid-August, stressing that now is the best time to buy the seeds and recommended TGX1442-2E and TGX 1904-6F because they require less amount of rain.
He also emphasised that depending on the size and method of production, seeds drill and broadcasting would be the best planting method of soybean.
Tarnongu further advised soybean farmers to learn and practice clustering to overcome the challenge of land development and mechanised farming.
Similarly, Omoigui in the interview stressed the need for farmers to be taught improved agronomy practices because availability of good seed alone contributes about 40 percent of harvest and if managed well can lead to high increase in productivity.
The plant breeder also noted that, most farmers harvest below two tons per hectare compared to 2.5 tons/ha on average if well managed, adding that if the trend continues, farmers would not be able to meet the requirement of the country's industrial sector.