Market conditions 'right' for soybeans

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) staff involved in the National Soybean Breeding Program have launched a push to encourage more farmers to grow soybeans as a food crop for people.

Mostly grown in Australia as a "break" crop, using no-till cultivation, soybeans have been used to recycle nitrogen and improve sustainability of a farmer"s principal crop.

However, NSW DPI"s program leader for Crop Improvement, John Sykes, says growers converting their variety choice areas to human food quality may capitalise on prevailing market conditions.

He says Asian markets offer potential for exporting "fresh" soybeans to niche markets.

“The challenge for the industry in Australia is to revitalise grower interest in regions where soybeans are a preferred break crop, or where production for a niche market can be sustained.”

Soybeans are grown in Australia in three farming systems - dominated by sugarcane, perennial pasture and rice. He says one of the most promising regions for growing soybeans for human consumption is the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, where water restrictions are providing opportunities for shorter growing season summer crops, other than rice.

“Soybeans are not only profitable but also complementary to rice and other winter cropping rotations.

“They help break disease cycles, improve soil structure and fertility, reduce weed seed-banks and improve total water-use efficiencies.

“Following the soybean crop, a winter cereal is again no-tilled into the soybean stubble or residue. This means the crop can be sown on-time and the paddock cropped 52 weeks a year.”

Mr Sykes recently attended an international soybean conference in Brazil, where he said delegates outlined desirable quality standards identical to those already used in Australia"s national breeding program.

“Our emphasis is on new traits such as protein type (needed for firmer tofu), calcium content and freedom from lipoxygenase (which removes bitterness).”

For more information:
John Sykes, 02 6881 1270, john.sykes@agric.nsw.gov.au

GRDC Research code: CSP 338, program 2

Region North, South, West