Soybean production could soon be ‘the norm’ in Ireland

“Soya was grown in Ireland for the first time in 2018,” according to David Shortall of Quinns of Baltinglass. Quinns will grow the crop under trial again this season, having had success last year.

David, who has experience working with the crop in Canada, explained that: “There has been a significant acreage of soybeans grown in the UK since the year 2000.

It’s also grown in very similar climates to here in Ireland. In 2018, there were 5,000ac of soya grown in the UK.

Homegrown protein

In recent years Quinns has encouraged farmers to grow protein crops and feed its mill with as much Irish protein as possible.

Soybeans contain 36% protein and have an oil content of 20%, while soybean meal has a much higher protein content at 46% and a lower oil content.

David added that there may be an opportunity for the crop to be grown as whole crop.

“Soya contains trypsin inhibitors, the main enzyme that helps to digest protein in the stomach. Mature, raw soybeans are not safe to feed to livestock as they are. They need to be toasted to allow for safe feeding.”

As trypsin kicks in at senescence or when the crop starts to ripen, there may be an opportunity to whole crop.

If you take a green crop of soybean at that whole crop stage the protein is available and is safe to feed.

“So, you have a raw standing crop, very high protein, very high starch levels and this could be important into the future for the livestock sector.”

Crop management

Crop management is relatively straightforward, according to David.

It’s very similar to managing spring beans; it’s just sown later.

The crop is typically planted no earlier than April 25; it requires a minimum soil temperature of 12°C.

The seeding rate in light to medium soils is typically 136kg/ha; aiming for a plant stand of 55-60 plants/m².

On index 3 soils David explained that the crop needs 26 units (per acre) of phosphorus (P), 50 units of potassium (K) and 12 units of sulphur (S). As the crop is a legume it does not require applied nitrogen.

A pre-emergence herbicide is applied, while sclerotinia is the main disease threat. Pigeons have also taken to the crop and are the major pest.

Unlike beans, the crop is harvested somewhere between September 25 and October 7.

“One very important message is that soya is very determined. Once it gets to a certain stage in its lifecycle it starts to mature. Soya will mature at those dates every year,” David added.