20 March 1998

SOYASOURCE PROTEIN GOOD & HOME-GROWN

Could the worlds most important protein crop – soyabeans – be grown successfully

in the UK? Jessica Buss speaks to a farmer who has done just this

Could the worlds most important protein crop – soyabeans – be grown successfully

in the UK? Jessica Buss speaks to a farmer who has done just this

SOYABEANS have achieved a very respectable yield of protein for a Leics grower on analysis of the first years crop, before and after nutrition-enhancing treatment. Whole-crop soyabean silage also proved promising.

Farm manager Wil Armitage believes this proves soya beans can be produced profitably by UK dairy farmers to yield a quality source of home-grown protein. He grew his first crop of soyabeans at Keythorpe Lakes, Tugby, last year.

Mr Armitage was pleased with the results, despite the fact that although 1ha (2.5 acres) were drilled, only 0.4ha (1 acre) survived pest and weed infestations to grow well.

It yielded 1t of beans, despite also suffering from wetter than ideal conditions in June and July. The crop is also eligible for arable aid when grown on eligible land, adds Mr Armitage.

He plans to quadruple the soya bean acreage to 4ha (10 acres) this year. He hopes for higher yields of 3.1-3.7t/ha (1.25-1.5t/acre).

With its high protein content and quality, protein yield is higher than that of peas and beans. If it does as well as he hopes this year it will deliver a more viable yield in protein terms, comparing well with crops such as oilseed rape that have a lower protein content and quality, he says.

Keythorpe Lakes first crop has been used to assess some of the feed treatment and storage options. Part was sent for processing to produce full fat soya, a process widely available in the UK where imported beans are treated for sale and use by compounders, at a cost of £20-25/t. The treatment is said to increase protein by-pass potential, but Mr Armitage is unsure the cost is justified.

"The full fat soya analysed at 46.3% protein and 8% oil, higher in protein and lower in oil than we expected, but giving better feed value," he says. Imported full fat soya is typically 36% protein.

Alternatively, whole beans, analysing at 42% protein, could be fed. It seems concerns that trypsin inhibitors will be detrimental to cows health are unfounded, he says, and cows should be able to digest whole beans in a balanced ration.

Another option is to use a crop processor to crush the beans, increasing surface area. Alter-natively beans could be caustic treated in a mixer wagon.

Mr Armitage also made a small area of the soyabeans into whole-crop silage, using an acetic acid-based additive. Being able to make silage from soyabeans could be important for UK producers who may not be able to guarantee crop maturity, he says.

But he warns that for whole-crop to ferment it must exceed 28% dry matter. Fermenting protein crops is a variable process and difficult to control, he adds. "Taking the whole-crop to a drier state and preserving it with acid additive looks more attractive."

Too little of the crop was grown to include in rations this winter, but next year Mr Armitage hopes to have enough to try out the different options in cow rations.

Producers that can grow maize consistently should be able to grow soya, he says. Keythorpe Lakes stopped growing maize in favour of whole-crop wheat because of inconsistent yields. The 393ha (970-acre) farm is 156m (520ft) above sea level and has 68cm (27in) of rainfall. It supports 140 Holstein Friesian cows – averaging 11,164 litres, 240 youngstock – including ET recipients, and 220 Texel sheep. &#42

Options for feeding home-grown soya are as whole beans, processed on-farm, or off-farm to produce full fat soya or as a whole-crop, says Wil Armitage.

GROWING SOYA BEANS

&#8226 Drill in early May when soil temperature is above 10C (50F).

&#8226 Beware of seed fly larvae.

&#8226 Control weeds.

KEYTHORPE LAKES FARM

&#8226 Area: 393ha (970 acres).

lStocking: 140 cows (11764 litres), 240 youngstock, 220 Texel ewes.

lAltitude: 156m (520ft).

lRainfall: 68cm (27in).

MORE DETAILS

For information on the Soybean Association contact Wil Armitage on (0116-2598464) or Simon Boddle on (01858-432945).