Thursday, April 18, 2013

Raising Soybeans Through the Seasons

Soybeans have become a major crop in GriggsDakota. Agricultural research has allowed us to grow soybeans in our short season. Soybeans are high in protein and are consumed by humans as edamame when fresh. Dried soybeans are processed into a myriad of foods including tofu and they are crushed to remove soybean oil.  Soybean meal also an important source of protein and energy in livestock feed. In GriggsDakota we raise soybeans on contract to be used for seed next season.
Soybeans in GriggsDakota are planted with our Concord Air-Till Drill, but can be planted with either a drill or a planter.
 Soybeans emerge quickly. How quickly depends on moisture, soil temperature and air temperature. 
We generally expect to see emergence in 2-7 days. 
Soybeans leaf out quickly and become a thick carpet of leaves if they have enough moisture. Soybeans do best with regular rain through the season. I have read that they take 18 inches of moisture per season. Of course, the soil contains moisture in the Spring which is used to get the plants started.
Soybeans produce a small white or purple blossom that is generally hidden by the leaves. 
The blossoms stay near the stem from which it buds.
The canopy of leaves protect the developing soybean pods. 
Soybean fields must be checked regularly for pests. A fully formed green soybean is called edamame. We do not harvest green soybeans in GriggsDakota. I purchase edamame that has been shelled. The pods are not edible.
Aphids are the most common insect problem in GriggsDakota. 
Even though there looks to be plenty of bugs on the leaves above, the number is below the threshold of treatment. Lady bugs are a natural enemy of soybean aphids. 
As the soybeans mature, their leaves begin to turn yellow. 
 As the leaves mature, they drop to the ground.
 Traditionally we raise soybeans in three bean pods. The goal is to have some four bean pods in the field, like the one in the center of the photo above. occasionally it is possible to produce a five bean pod and there can be some two bean pods near the top of the plant at the end of the production cycle.
Remember the formation and filling of soybean pods depend on the availability of moisture for the plant as it develops.  The leaves drop from the plant as they mature, leaving a stalk with beans attached.
The soybeans continue to dry down in the field. When the shelled soybeans have dried down to a moisture content of under 14 percent, harvest can begin. If the soybean crop gets too dry, the beans will crack during harvest. Clean, whole soybeans are always the goal. It is essential that the soybeans remain whole if they are to used as seed.
 Combining soybeans is a dusty job. The stalks are cut as near to the ground as possible to capture as many soybeans as possible. The husks and stalks come through the combine as chaff while the soybeans are sent to the hopper.
From the combine the soybeans are transferred to the grain cart.
From the grain cart to the truck box where they are hauled to a bin site and stored.
Soybeans are stored in a bin on the farm until Winter. If the soybeans are raised for seed, the seed company will determine when they will be hauled away. Some soybeans are hauled to area elevators and sold as needed to feed the hungry world.
And that is how we raise soybeans through the season in GriggsDakota. 

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